Species group: Tortoises
Other common names: European Tortoise; Western Hermann’s Tortoise(T. h. hermanni); Eastern Hermann’s Tortoise (T. h. boettgeri)
Scientific name: Testudo hermanni
Although no tortoise may be considered a “beginners pet”, this personable European native is one of the better choices for those with suitable dedication and space. Often described as “charming”, Hermann’s Tortoises can become, more than most reptiles, more “family member” than pet.
The Hermann’s Tortoise ranges over much of southern Europe (including Sicily, Corsica and other associated islands), from northeastern Spain to Romania and eastern Turkey.
They are limited to arid habitats such as open oak forests, overgrown meadows, thorn scrub, and the margins of agricultural land.
Appearance / Health:
The domed carapace may be yellow, olive or light to orange-tinted brown in color, and bears dark blotches. Adults measure 6-11 inches in length.
Hermann’s Tortoises take very well to “domestic life”, with captive longevities approaching 50 years. Metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure. Females without access to a suitable nesting site may retain their eggs. Respiratory tract infections and ear abscesses are common in both damp habitats and overly-dry habitats. The lack of a moist retreat may cause irregular shell formation, usually in the form of lumps, among hatchlings. Fiber-poor diets lead to digestive disorders, and a diet rich in fruit will cause colic-like ailments. Other possible problems to be aware of include swollen eyes (Vitamin A deficiency), overgrown beaks, and obesity.
Behavior / Temperament:
Hermann’s Tortoises become very trusting and responsive, and quickly learn to “beg’ for food when their owners appear. They are alert and aware of their surroundings, and feed readily from the hand. Like most turtles, they dislike being handled and carried about.
Hermann’s Tortoises are very active and need spacious enclosures. Glass aquariums are unsuitable. Adults do best in custom-made enclosures measuring at least 4 x 4 feet, but preferably larger; outdoor maintenance is ideal. Plastic-based rabbit cages, large plastic storage boxes, and cattle troughs can also be modified as turtle homes. Drinking water should be available, and the animals should also be soaked in a tub of shallow water for 15-20 minutes, 1-2x weekly.
A 6-8 inch deep mix of sand and soil is the best substrate. The substrate should be of a depth that allows the tortoise to create a shallow depression for night-time use.
Exposure to UVB light is essential. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances than do florescent models, and provide beneficial UVA radiation as well. Temperatures should range from 80-85 F, with a basking site of 95 F. Provide your pet with the largest home possible, so that a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures) can be established. Thermal gradients, critical to good health, allow turtles to regulate their body temperature by moving between hot and cooler areas.
Females and youngsters often co-exist, but must be watched as dominance hierarchies develop. Males fight viciously, and usually harass females with near-constant mating attempts.
Hermann’s Tortoises consume a diet that is high in fiber and calcium and low in protein and fat. In the wild, they feed almost exclusively on grasses, herbaceous plants and flowers, with fruit only sporadically available. High protein foods such as beans and dog food should be strictly avoided. Fruit is not necessary, although a few berries can be given as a weekly treat during the summer.
In the warmer months, native grasses, weeds, and flowers should, if possible, comprise the bulk of your tortoises diet (learn to identify toxic species). The following are readily accepted by most individuals:
Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum),
Dandelion (Taraxacum spp.)
Hawkweeds (Pictis spp.)
Clovers (Trifolium spp.)
Cat's ears (Hypochoeris spp.)
Mallows (Malva spp.)
Sedums (Sedum spp.)
Chickweed (Stelaria media)
Hedge mustard (Sisymbrium sp.)
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
Plantains (Plantago spp.)
The balance of the diet should include seasonally available greens such as kale, endive, Swiss chard, mustard/collard greens, and romaine. Other produce can be added as available, but avoid spinach and iceberg lettuce, and use bok-choy sparingly. Commercial grassland tortoise diets may be added to your pet’s salad, but should not be used as a mainstay.
Most meals provided to growing animals should be powdered with a calcium source. Vitamin/mineral supplements should be used 2-3 times each week. Both can be reduced to once weekly for well-nourished adults. A calcium block or cuttlebone may be left in the terrarium for “as needed” use (not all individuals will consume calcium in this form).
Wild Hermann’s Tortoises become sexually mature when approximately 10-12 years old, but pets may reproduce at age 4-6, or earlier. Mature males may be distinguished from females by their longer, thicker tails. Breeding usually occurs without the need for temperature manipulation, although a hibernation period of 2-3 months at 42-45 F has also proven effective. Pairs must be watched closely, as males may injure non-receptive females.
Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. If the home enclosure is not suitable for nesting, they should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with 8-10 inches of slightly moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). It is important to note that females may develop eggs even if unmated, and may produce 3-4 clutches each year; a single mating may result in fertile clutches years later. The 1-20 eggs may be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 84-90 F for 60-90 days. Males are produced at low incubation temperatures and females at high; 86 F yields both sexes.
managable size, hardy tortoise, loving personality, lovely yellow pattern, great longterm pets
important commitment, pyramided shell, lifelong companion
winter hibernation, medium sized tortoise, free range, minimum maintenance, nice little shelter
Tricky Tiggy the Tortoise
Tricky children’s pet The option I gave my daughter was Bearded Dragon or Tortoise (with me secretly hoping she opted for the latter) and so we ended up with Tiggy who came from a specialist Reptile shop in South Wales. I’d remembered Tortoises from my childhood TV days, Blue Peter, and thought hey, can’t be that difficult right? We were sold a kit, a UV and heat lamp, a vivarium and various other ‘bits’ for Tiggy’s comfort and off we went home. So first of all, vivariums are torture for tortoises. They do not provide enough gradient of heat from hot to cold and so £300 of ‘set-up’ was instantly trashed trying to prevent Tiggy from dying of heat exhaustion within the first few days. Secondly, tortoises do not eat nor like lettuce. It makes them smell badly. And they are supremely fussy on what pellets they like. You also need to give them calcium dust on everything. I downloaded a tortoise food book and started to learn what plants and herbs I could scavenge from the hedgerows to ensure Tiggy had a balanced diet. Thirdly, tortoises are messy and need cleaning out every day. For small creatures they poop a lot. And they need regular baths. Forget leaving water in their area as they'll just use it as a toilet. The best way to ensure your Tortoise is hydrated is to gently bathe in warm water. And fourthly and the most surprising thing, is that their wee is made up of liquid and solids and they generally only wee once in water. These guys are fast. Do not be fooled by that old tale of the tortoise and the hare. If a tortoise wants to leg it, it will motor pretty fast. Sadly for us that meant we needed to give him very close supervision because of the risk of cats and dogs. So they are not easy to care for properly. We built Tiggy a large tortoise table and set up the lamp and UV light as best we could but I was still unhappy that we were providing the best environment for him. Thankfully down the wonders of the Internet, I found a local Tortoise expert and we re-homed Tiggy where we knew he was going to have an excellent set up and plenty of company and handling. .
From Sam Browne Dec 18 2016 12:07PM
I purchased two Hermann's Tortoise from a local pet store with great reviews. I was able to choose which ones I wanted from a tank and was thrilled to get them home. My husband and I had set up a large tank with plenty of water and places to hide. At first, they were great! Their diets were varied, they had great appetites, and they were active. 7 months later, Sammy began acting lethargic and refusing food. We had no idea what was wrong since nothing had changed and we had taken all the precautions for their environment, cleaning, and food. A few days later, Sammy passed away. Sunny survived for over 2 years before she passed away, too. Again, there was no change that we could pinpoint.
The tortoise breed is said to be hardy and healthy, but from my experience, they became ill quite easily.
While these are great pets for children, require minimum maintenance, and are easy to interact with, they seemed to have susceptibilities to illness..
From stephaniemkay Apr 6 2015 8:52PM