Basic Information Sheet: Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Hermann's tortise

Testudo hermanni; Photo credit: Cristiano Cani via Flickr Creative Commons

Natural history



The Hermann’s tortoise population is divided into western and eastern subspecies, and both are found in the US pet trade.

  • The western subspecies, Testudo hermanni hermanni, is found in northeast Spain, southeast France, western or southern Italy and Majorca, Minorca, Sardinia, Sicily, and Corsica.
  • The eastern subspecies, T. h. boettgeri, is found in eastern Italy, the Balkans, Greece, and western Turkey.
  • A third subspecies, T. h. hercegovinensis, is found in Bosnia and Croatia.  This subspecies shares the morphological features and coloring of other subspecies.

The natural habitat of Hermann’s tortoise includes Mediterranean evergreen and oak forests with arid, rocky hill slopes and scrubby vegetation, as well as herbaceous scrub and grassy hillsides. The natural climate tends to be moist during the spring and fall but very dry in the summer.


Conservation status



Hermann’s tortoise is included in CITES Appendix II and it is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union on Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some captive breeding occurs in the US, and several sanctuaries exist in Europe, such as Le Village Des Tortues in southern France.

Taxonomy



Class: Reptilia

Order: Chelonia/Testudines

Family: Testudinidae

Genus: Testudo

Testudo hermanni boettgeri, eastern subspecies

Testudo hermanni hermanni, western subspecies

Testudo hermanni hercegovinensis, Dalmatian tortoise


Physical description


Size

Testudo hermanni is a medium-sized tortoise. Adults usually range from 13-20 cm (5-8 in). Adults of the western subspecies, Testudo hermanni boettgeri, may reach up to 28 cm (11 in) in length, weighing 3-4 kg (7-9 lb). Sexual dimorphism is moderate, with females on average 12% larger than males.

Shell shape and color

Testudo hermanni has an arched, rounded carapace. The carapace of T. h. hermanni displays intense yellow coloration against a dark background. The plastron has two connected black bands along the central seam. The coloration of the head ranges from olive to yellowish with dark patches. Most individuals also have a characteristic yellow fleck on the cheek.

The plastron of T. h. boettgeri is almost always solid in color with isolated black patches on either side of the central seam. The head is brown to black with fine scales. The toes have five claws, which are darkly colored at the base. The hind legs are noticeably thicker than the forelimbs.

Testudo hermanni hermanni by "Bizarria"One of the characteristics that distinguishes Testudo hermanni from other members of genus Testudo is the presence of a horny spur or “tubercle” on the end of the tail (click image left to enlarge). Female T. h. boettgeri have much smaller tail spikes than males.
Hermann’s tortoise usually possesses a divided supracaudal scuteHermann’s tortoise usually possesses a divided supracaudal scute (#6 left) (photo credit: Titimaster via Wikimedia Commons, click image to enlarge).


Diet



Testudo hermanni are more than 90% herbivorous with a natural diet high in succulent and herbaceous plants. Their diet is similar to Testudo graeca, but this species appears to favor legumes and clovers over grasses. They are opportunistic omnivores and will also occasionally eat invertebrates, such as worms and snails, and carrion. Nevertheless in captivity, it is recommended to manage this species as a strict herbivore. See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.

Housing


TemperatureDaytime temperatures should range from 15°C-30°C (60°F-85°F), with a basking spot of 32°C-35°C (90°F-95°F). The temperature gradient should drop to 5°C-25°C (40°F-75°F) at night.
Humidity40%-75%
LightingArtificial UVB lighting is recommended for captive specimens. See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.
Cage size and designIf possible, outdoor housing is preferred during warm weather months. Most Testudo hermanni are quite hardy and will cope outdoors in well-drained herbaceous areas that are protected and enclosed. Indoor housing must be large enough to allow roaming.
Hibernation/aestivationTortoises are maintained at 5°C-10°C (40°F-50°F) for hibernation (Divers 2003, Franklin 2007). Free-ranging tortoises usually hibernate for a variable period (usually 4-5 months) between October/November and March/April. In captivity, the recommended maximum length of hibernation is approximately 3 months for a healthy adult tortoise. Of course it is difficult to replicate conditions for safe aestivation and hibernation in captivity, and for this reason some herpetologists elect to maintain tortoises at moderate temperatures that allow normal activity year round.


Anatomy/ physiology



See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet

Restraint



See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet

Venipuncture



See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet

Preventive medicine



See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet

Important medical conditions


  • Tortoise herpesvirus has been frequently described in Testudo hermanni in Europe. Hermann’s tortoises are more susceptible to tortoise herpesvirus 3 (TeHV3 genotype), which causes particularly severe disease and high morbidity in this species. Testudo hermanni infection from TeHV1 isolates has also occurred.
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Stomatitis
  • Aural abscesses
  • Diarrhea, frequently caused by ascarids
  • Osteodystrophy
  • Post-hibernation blindness from retinal damage caused by hypovitaminosis A has been described in Testudo hermanni
  • There have also been individual reports of paramyxovirus infections (Ferlavirus genus) in Testudo hermanni.

See the Mediterranean Tortoise Basic Information Sheet for additional information.


Quiz


Click here to access LafeberVet’s Testudo Tortoise Fast 5 Quiz.

**Login to view references**

References and further reading