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The Hermann Tortoise

Although originally singularly described as Testudo Hermanni by J.F.Gmelin in 1789, this species has undergone several reclassifications over the years, resulting in the now commonly accepted two sub specific races, namely:

Testudo Hermanni Hermanni (Gmelin 1789) and Testudo Hermanni Boettgeri (Mojsisovics 1889)

Both races are characterised by possessing a prominent “spur” or “horny tip” located at the end of their tails, this being extremely exaggerated in males. Most have a divided supracaudal scute, although this isn’t the case in all specimens, so subsequently this feature shouldn’t be relied upon as a main identifying characteristic of this species.

The skin colouration of the legs and neck in both races is a uniform light brown, sometimes with slight mottled yellow or cream patches. Both sub-species possess a long and narrow nuchal scute.

Neither race has a flexible suture on their plastron or possesses spurs or tubercles on their rear thighs, as seen in Testudo Graeca for example.

The Western Race: (France, Spain, Italy)

Testudo Hermanni Hermanni are a smaller race than their Eastern cousins – females typically reaching an average carapace length of around 18cm. The French population in particular are very small indeed, with females attaining an average of 15cmand males only 13cm. They have a background carapace colour of a bright yellow-gold, contrasting dramatically with the very dark markings around the edges of the scutes. These Western Hermann tortoises also display two unbroken, very dark, and extremely well defined bands running parallel to each other down the full length of their yellow plastrons.

The shape of the head in this sub species is quite elongated and snake like in appearance, often with a yellow patch directly under the chin and beneath each eye.

Females of this group usually only lay between 2 to 4 eggs in a clutch, whereas the Eastern race typically lay between 8 and 15.

The Eastern Race: (The Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary)

Testudo Hermanni Boettgeri can grow to quite a large size in comparison to their Western counterparts. Females can often be found reaching carapace lengths of over 20cm and occasionally as large as 26cm.

This race typically exhibits a rather drab looking carapace with more subtle markings than the Western race, but the most obvious difference in colouration is seen on the plastron – the dark bands which as so well defined in Testudo Hermanni Hermanni are much fainter less defined and are usually broken into irregular sections.

The head of this species is rather broad and flattened. In particular the nose area is very flat indeed.

Gender Diversity

There are no major differences in the overall carapace shape and structure between the males and females of this species. Males do not have exaggerated flaring of the marginal scutes of a particularly more elongated body shape as seen in males of some other species. They do however possess a more concave plastron than the female and are also smaller in overall physical size. The most visually acute difference of all is the size of their respective tails – males have a much larger and ticker tail with a pronounced horny tip, usually carried upwards and towards one side. The females have a much shorter stubby tail, which normally points straight down. The “spur” on the end of a female’s tail, although still present, is only a fraction of the size of a male’s.

Identification in Brief

  • No spurs or tubercles on the thighs
  • A large horny tip is present on the end of the tail
  • Divided supracaudal scute (not in every specimen)
  • No flexible plastral hinge or suture
  • Long, narrow nuchal scute

Requirements

Housing

Both Outdoor and Indoor/Greenhouse accommodation

Substrate

Soil and sand mix (50/50), plus gravel and rocks

Diet

Herbivorous

Planting

Coarse Shrubs, Thicket, Cacti, Grasses and Weeds

Hibernation

Yes

Other

N/A