The Hare and The Tortoise

A Tortoise and Hare decide to race. The hare is so confident in the lead that he naps while the tortoise keeps going to win.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Hare and Tortoise

Milo Winter (1919)

A Hare was making fun of the Tortoise one day for being so slow.

“Do you ever get anywhere?” he asked with a mocking laugh.

“Yes,” replied the Tortoise, “and I get there sooner than you think. I’ll run you a race and prove it.”

The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the Tortoise, but for the fun of the thing he agreed. So the Fox, who had consented to act as judge, marked the distance and started the runners off.

The Hare was soon far out of sight, and to make the Tortoise feel very deeply how ridiculous it was for him to try a race with a Hare, he lay down beside the course to take a nap until the Tortoise should catch up.

The Tortoise meanwhile kept going slowly but steadily, and, after a time, passed the place where the Hare was sleeping. But the Hare slept on very peacefully; and when at last he did wake up, the Tortoise was near the goal. The Hare now ran his swiftest, but he could not overtake the Tortoise in time.


The race is not always to the swift.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

The Hare was once boasting of his speed: “I have never been beaten,” said he, “when I go full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve won,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and the race started. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the finish line and could not run up in time to save the race.

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor

Taylor - Hare and Tortoise 0089SAID a hare to a tortoise, “Good sir, what a while
You have been only crossing the way;
Why I really believe that to go half a mile
You must travel two nights and a day.”

“I am very contented,” the creature replied,
“Though I walk but a tortoise’s pace;
But if you think proper the point to decide,
We will run half a mile in a race.”

“Very good,” said the hare; said the tortoise, “Proceed,
And the fox shall decide who has won.”
Then the hare started off with incredible speed;
But the tortoise walk’d leisurely on.

“Come, tortoise, friend tortoise, walk on,” said the hare;
“Well, I shall stay here for my dinner;
Why, ’twill take you a month at that rate to get there,
Then how can you hope to be winner?”

But the tortoise could hear not a word that she said,
For he was far distant, behind;
So the hare felt secure whilst at leisure she fed,
And took a sound nap when she dined.

So at last this slow walker came up with the hare,
And there fast asleep he did spy her;
And he cunningly crept with such caution and care,
That she woke not, although he passed by her.

“Well now,” thought the hare when she opened her eyes,
“For the race,—and I soon shall have done it;”
But who can describe her chagrin and surprise,
When she found that the tortoise had won it!

Thus plain plodding people, we often shall find,
Will leave hasty confident people behind.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Hare and Tortoise

Ernest Griset (1874)

The Hare, one day, laughing at the Tortoise for his slowness and general unwieldiness, was challenged by the latter to run a race. The Hare, looking on the whole affair as a great joke, consented, and the Fox was selected to act as umpire, and hold the stakes. The rivals started, and the Hare, of course, soon left the Tortoise far behind. Having reached midway to the goal, she began to play about, nibble the young herbage, and amuse herself in many ways. The day being warm, she even thought she would take a little nap in a shady spot, as, if the Tortoise should pass her while she slept, she could easily overtake him again before he reached the end. The Tortoise meanwhile plodded on, unwavering and unresting, straight towards the goal. The Hare, having overslept herself, started up from her nap, and was surprised to find that the Tortoise was nowhere in sight. Off she went at full speed, but on reaching the winning-post, found that the Tortoise was already there, waiting for her arrival.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Hare and TortoiseA HARE insulted a Tortoise upon Account of his slowness, and vainly boasted of her own great speed in running. Let us make a match, replied the Tortoise, I’ll run with you five miles for five pounds, and the Fox yonder shall be the umpire of the race. The Hare agreed; and away they both started together. But the Hare, by reason of her exceeding swiftness, outran the Tortoise to such a degree, that she made a jest of the matter; and finding herself a little tired, squatted in a tuft of fern that grew by the way, and took a nap; thinking, that if the Tortoise went by, she could at any time fetch him up, with all the ease imaginable. In the mean while the Tortoise came jogging on, with a slow but continued motion; and the Hare, out of a too great security and confidence of victory, oversleeping herself, the Tortoise arrived at the end of the race first.


Whittingham - Hare and Tortoise

C. Whittingham (1814)

Industry and application to business make amends for the want of a quick and ready wit. Hence it is, that the victory is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift Men of fine parts are apt to despise the drudgery of business; but, by affecting to show the superiority of their genius, upon many occasions, they run into too great an extreme the other way; and the administration of their affairs is ruined through idleness and neglect. What advantage has a man from the fertility of his invention, and the vivacity of his imagination, unless his resolutions are executed with a suitable and uninterrupted rapidity; In short, your men of wit and fire, as they are called, are oftentimes sots, slovens, and lazy fellows: they are generally proud and conceited to the last degree; and in the main, not the fittest persons for either conversation or business, Such is their vanity, they think the sprightliness of their humour inconsistent with a plain, sober way of thinking and speaking, and able to atone for all the little neglects of their business and persons. But the world will not be thus imposed upon; the man who would gain the esteem of others, and make his own fortune, must be one that carries his point effectually, and finishes his course without swerving or loitering. Men of dull parts and a slow apprehension, assisted by a continued diligence, are more likely to attain this, than your brisk retailers of wit, with their affected spleen and indolence. And if business be but well done, no matter whether it be done by the sallies of a refined wit, or the considering head of a plain, plodding man.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A Hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The Hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.


Slow but steady wins the race.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

What a dull heavy creature (says a hare) is this same tortoise! And yet (says the tortoise) I’ll run with you for a wager. ‘Twas done and done, and the fox, by consent, was to be the judg. They started together, and the tortoise kept jogging on still, ’till he came to the end of the course. The hare lay’d himself down about midway, and took a nap; for, says he, I can fetch up the tortoise when I please: but he over-slept himself it seems, for when he came to wake, though he scudded away as fast as ’twas possible, the tortoise got to the post before him, and won the wager.


Up and be doing, is an edifying text; for action is the bus’ness of life, and there’s no thought of ever coming to the end of our journey in time, if we sleep by the way.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual

Hare and Tortoise

Twas a race between Tortoise and Hare,
Puss was sure she’d so much time to spare,
That she lay down to sleep,
And let old Thick-shell creep
To the winning-post first. You may state.

Persistence beats impulse.

1001Testudo et Lepus, Certantes

Occurrit aliquando in via lepus testudini; cumque confabularentur, coepit ille testudini exprobrare pedes lentumque gressum irridere et se celeritatemque suam mirum quantum efferre. Quod testudo aegre audiens et ferens, leporem provocavit ad cursum. Consentit lepus, certus (ut putabat) victoriae. Diem statuunt; arbitrum eligunt vulpem, animalium sagacissimum, quae spatium et metas praefiniat. Testudo, nulla interposita mora, iter arripit, perdia et pernox ambulat, et ad locum prior pervenit, cum interim, spreto aemulo, lepus pedibus suis fidens tempus terit, cursu reparaturus moras. Sed frustra, nam brevi tempore iter dimensus reperit testudinem, loci et pugnae victricem.


Ex quo constat plus saepenumero studio ac diligentia rex maximas perfici quam viribus.

Perry #226