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See For Yourself


In the following sets of photos you will find Testudo hermanni hermanni (Western) being compared to Testudo hermanni boettgeri (Eastern). Here is where the difference can really stand out. You will notice the colors, shapes and features of what is typical to both subspecies but you will also see a bit of variation, which is important to see. Remember, there is an exception to every rule and to be blunt, if you don't knowexactly where your tortoise comes from, it's tough to really put a label on it and confirm what it is with 100% certainty.

Hermann's Tortoise :

Testudo hermanni


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni ) is one of five tortoise species traditionally placed in thegenus Testudo, the others being the marginated tortoise (T. marginata), Greek tortoise (T. graeca, or spur-thighed tortoise), Russian tortoise (T. horsfieldii ), and Kleinmann's tortoise (T. kleinmanni, or Egyptian tortoise). Three subspecies are known: the western Hermann's tortoise (T. h. hermanni ), the eastern Hermann's tortoise (T. h. boettgeri ) and Dalmatian tortoise (T. h. hercegovinensis). Sometimes mentioned as a subspecies, T. h. peleponnesica is not yet confirmed to be genetically different from T. h. boettgeri.

Hermann's tortoise

Conservation status:






Scientific classification








Genus:Testudo (disputed)

Species:T. hermanni


Binomial name

Testudo hermanni
Gmelin, 1789

Testudo hermanni hermanni on Majorca



T. h. hermanni

  • Testudo hermanni Gmelin, 1789

  • Testudo graeca bettai Lataste, 1881

  • Testudo hermanni hermanniWermuth, 1952

  • Testudo hermanni robertmertensiWermuth, 1952

  • Protestudo hermanni Chkhikvadze, 1983

  • Agrionemys hermanni Gmira, 1993

  • Testudo hermanii Gerlach, 2001 (ex errore)

  • Testudo hermannii Claude & Tong, 2004 (ex errore)

T. h. boettgeri

  • Testudo enriquesi Parenzan, 1932

  • Testudo hermanni boettgeri Bour, 1987

  • Testudo boettgeri Artner, Budischek & Froschauer, 2000

  • Testudo hercegovinensis Perälä, 2002

  • Testudo boettgeri boettgeri Artner, 2003

  • Testudo boettgeri hercegovinensis Artner, 2003

  • Testudo hermanni hercegovinensis Vinke & Vinke, 2004

Range map.
Western green population is hermanni, eastern blue boettgeri and redhercegovinensis.

Etymology :

The specific epithet, hermanni, honors French naturalist Johann Hermann.[3]

Geographic range :


Testudo hermanni can be found throughout southern Europe. The western population (T. h. hermanni ) is found in eastern Spain, southern France, the Balearic islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily,south and central Italy (Tuscany). The eastern population (T. h. boettgeri ) inhabits Serbia, Kosovo,Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey and Greece, while T. h. hercegovinensis populates the coasts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro.


Description and systematics :


Hermann's tortoises are small to medium-sized tortoises from southern Europe. Young animals, and some adults, have attractive black and yellow-patterned carapaces, although the brightness may fade with age to a less distinct gray, straw, or yellow coloration. They have slightly hooked upper jaws and, like other tortoises, possess no teeth,[4] just strong, horny beaks.[5] Their scaly limbs are greyish to brown, with some yellow markings, and their tails bear a spur (a horny spike) at the tip.[5] Adult males have particularly long and thick tails,[6] and well-developed spurs, distinguishing them from females.[5]


The eastern subspecies T. h. boettgeri is much larger than the western T. h. hermanni, reaching sizes up to 28 cm (11 in) in length. A specimen of this size may weigh 3–4 kg (6.6–8.8 lb). T. h. hermanni rarely grows larger than 18 cm (7.1 in). Some adult specimens are as small as 7 cm (2.8 in).


Male of T. h. hermanni

Female of T. h. hermanni

Male of T. h. hermanni

In 2006, Hermann's tortoise was suggested to be moved to the genus Eurotestudo and to bring the subspecies to the rank of species (Eurotestudo hermanni and Eurotestudo boettgeri).[7] Though some factors indicate this might be correct,[8] the data at hand are not unequivocally in support and the relationships between Hermann's and the Russian tortoise among each other and to the other species placed in Testudo are not robustly determined. Hence, it seems doubtful that the new genus will be accepted for now. The elevation of the subspecies to full species was tentatively rejected under the biological species concept at least, as there still seems significant gene flow.[9]


Of note, the rate of evolution as measured by mutations accumulating in the mtDNA differs markedly, with the eastern populations having evolved faster. This is apparently due to stronger fragmentation of the population on the mountainous Balkans during the last ice age. While this has no profound implications for taxonomy of this species, apart from suggesting that two other proposed subspecies are actually just local forms at present, it renders the use of molecular clocks in Testudo even more dubious and unreliable than they are for turtles in general.[10][9]


T. h. hermanni


The subspecies T. h. hermanni includes the former subspecies T. h. robertmertensi and has anumber of local forms. It has a highly arched shell with an intensive coloration, with its yellow coloration making a strong contrast to the dark patches. The colors wash out somewhat in older animals, but the intense yellow is often maintained. The underside has two connected black bands along the central seam.


The coloration of the head ranges from dark green to yellowish, with isolated dark patches. A particular characteristic is the yellow fleck on the cheek found in most specimens, although not in all; T. h. robertmertensi is the name of a morph with very prominent cheek spots. Generally, the forelegs have no black pigmentation on their undersides. The base of the claws is often lightly colored. The tail in males is larger than in females and possesses a spike. Generally, the shell protecting the tail is divided. A few specimens can be found with undivided shells, similar to the Greek tortoise.

Sardinian colouring

Apulian colouring

Var colouring

T. h. boettgeri :


The subspecies T. h. hercegovinensis (Balkans coast) and the local T. h. peloponnesica (southwestern Peloponnesus coast) are now included here; they constitute local forms that are not yet geographically or in other ways reproductively isolated and apparently derive from relictpopulations of the last ice age.[9] The eastern Hermann's tortoise also has an arched, almost round carapace, but some are notably flatter and more oblong. The coloration is brownish with a yellow or greenish hue and with isolated black flecks. The coloring tends to wash out quite strongly in older animals. The underside is almost always solid horn color, and has separate black patches on either side of the central seam.


The head is brown to black, with fine scales. The fore legs similarly possess fine scales. The limbs generally have five claws, which are darkly colored at their base. The hind legs are noticeably thicker than the fore legs, almost plump. The particularly strong tail ends in a spike, which may be very large in older male specimens. Females have noticeably smaller tail spikes, which are slightly bent toward the body.

Ecology :


Early in the morning, the animals leave their nightly shelters, which are usually hollows protected by thick bushes or hedges, to bask in the sun and warm their bodies. They then roam about the Mediterranean meadows of their habitat in search of food. They determine which plants to eat by the sense of smell. (In captivity, they are known to eat dandelions, clover, and lettuce, as well as the leaves, flowers, and pods of almost all legumes.) In addition to leaves and flowers, the animals eat small amounts fruits as supplementary nutrition.


Around midday, the sun becomes too hot for the tortoises, so they return to their hiding places. They have a good sense of direction to enable them to return. Experiments have shown they also possess a good sense of time, the position of the sun, the magnetic lines of the earth, and for landmarks.[citation needed] In the late afternoon, they leave their shelters again and return to feeding.


In late February, Hermann’s tortoises emerge from under bushes or old rotting wood, where they spend the winter months hibernating, buried in a bed of dead leaves.[5] Immediately after surfacing from their winter resting place, Hermann’s tortoises commence courtship and mating.[5]Courtship is a rough affair for the female, which is pursued, rammed, and bitten by the male, before being mounted. Aggression is also seen between rival males during the breeding season, which can result in ramming contests.[6]


Between May and July, female Hermann’s tortoises deposit between two and 12 eggs into flask-shaped nests dug into the soil,[6] up to 10 cm (3.9 in) deep.[5] Most females lay more than one clutch each season.[6] The pinkish-white eggs are incubated for around 90 days and, like many reptiles,[6] the temperature at which the eggs are incubated determines the hatchlings sex. At 26 °C, only males will be produced, while at 30 °C, all the hatchlings will be female.[5] Young Hermann’s tortoises emerge just after the start of the heavy autumn rains in early September, and spend the first four or five years of their lives within just a few metres of their nests.[6] If the rains do not come, or if nesting took place late in the year, the eggs will still hatch, but the young will remain underground and not emerge until the following spring. Until the age of six or eight, when the hard shell becomes fully developed, the young tortoises are very vulnerable to predators, and may fall prey to rats, badgers, magpies, foxes, wild boar, and many other animals. If they survive these threats, the longevity of Hermann’s tortoises is around 30 years.[5] One rare record of longevity is 31.7 years.[11] Compared to other tortoises (e.g. Testudo Graeca),[11] the longevity might be underestimated and many sources are reporting they might live 90 years[12] or more.


Breeding :


Breeding and upbringing of Hermann's tortoises is quite easy if kept in species-appropriate environments. The European Studbook Foundationmaintains stud books for both subspecies. With the help of ultraviolet light-emitting bulbs (UVa and UVb, such as Repti Glo and Creature World), the correct environment for breeding can be created and bring tortoises into breeding condition.


In captivity



Adult female, Bulgaria

Female T. h. boettgeri(left) and T. h. hercegovinensis tail openings

Female T. h. peloponnesica

Sanctuaries :


Several tortoise sanctuaries are located in Europe, such as Carapax in southern Tuscany, and Le Village Des Tortues in the south of France (near Gonfaron). These sanctuaries rescue injured tortoises whilst also taking in unwanted pets, and specialise in Hermann's tortoises.


The UK, with its large captive population, also has many specialist centres providing rescue facilities.


Hibernation :


In nature, the animals dig their nightly shelters out and spend the relatively mild Mediterranean winters there. During this time, their heart and breathing rates drop notably. Domestic animals can be kept in the basement in a roomy rodent-proof box with a thick layer of dry leaves. The temperature should be around 5 °C. As an alternative, the box can be stored in a refrigerator. For this method to be used, the refrigerator should be in regular day-to-day use, to permit air flow. During hibernation, the ambient temperature must not fall below zero. Full-grown specimens may sleep four to five months at a time.



Hatching Hermann's tortoise :








Best Hermann's Tortoise Info! Kamp Kenan S2 Episode 10


Click here for the this comprehensive channel :



courtesy to :!western-vs-eastern/c1mxv



On this page I will explain how to accurately tell the difference between the Western Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni hermanni) and the Eastern Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni boettgeri). As I've already stated, this is not always easy to the untrained eye. It's important to know a little about each subspecies and what they are truly supposed to look like before hand because this can sometimes help in difficult situations. We've already gone into detail about the Western variety on the "Hermanni" page and that should aid you in knowing a thing or two about what they are supposed to look like. The Eastern variety is the most commonly seen subspecies, readily available at almost all Reptile shows/expos, online dealers and even pet stores both big and small. There are also countless individuals and farms breeding these tortoises world wide. This is the largest of the Hermann's tortoises but just like the extreme variation in color and markings found in them, size varies greatly as well. The Eastern and the Dalmatian (Testudo hermanni hercegovinensis) are severely close in overall appearance and only in recent years has the Dalmatian been accepted as a valid subspecies. Because of this I will focus mainly on showing how to know the Western from the Eastern.

Western Hermann's tortoise (top photo) and Eastern Hermann's tortoise (bottom photo) at Garden State Tortoise. Note the vibrant colors of the Western.

Pointers :


Let's start by briefly listing the key factors to take into consideration when properly differentiating these two subspecies from one another.

Western Hermann's Tortoise

Eastern Hermann's Tortoise

  • A smaller size of 5 to 6" for females and 4 to 5" for males usually

  • A carapace with the highest point situated toward the center or front usually

  • A divided supracaudal shield

  • The presence of inguinal scutes on both sides of the bridge usually

  • A narrow and sleek head

  • A rounder overall appearance with minimal flaring at the back

  • The pectoral scute seam on the plastron is shorter than that of the femoral

  • A vibrant, rich, yellow or golden ground color on the carapace and plastron

  • Well defined and sharply contrasting black markings on the carapace

  • A visible "key hole" or "mushroom cloud" symbol on the fifth vertebral scute

  • Two longitudinal, jet black bands, running parallel on the plastron, along the mid-line or suture.

  • Gular scutes are either free of any black pigment or have markings separated from the general black bands

  • Anal scutes accompanied by black pigment sometimes separated from the general black bands

  • Skin and nail color typically light to gray


  • A larger size of 7 to 9" for females and 5 to 7" for males and even bigger

  • A carapace with the highest point situated toward the back or sometimes middle

  • A undivided or divided supracaudal shield

  • The presence of inguinal scutes on both sides of the bridge

  • A bulky, rounded and robust or even boxy head

  • A more trapezoidal overall appearance with  flaring at the back especially in males

  • The pectoral scute seam on the plastron is longer than that of the femoral sometimes but not always

  • A toned down, drab, straw or brown-yellow ground color on the carapace and plastron

  • Less defined black markings on the carapace with hues of brown sometimes infused

  • A fifth vertebral scute lacking any design or symbol or a symbol not as clear

  • Two longitudinal, black bands, running parrallel on the plastron, broken up, separated, blotchy or faded or even completely lacking

  • Gular scutes may or may not have any dark pigment

  • Anal scutes accompanied by black pigment or completely lacking it

  • Skin and nail color typically dark, grey to brown, greenish or almost black in some specimens

In these two photos above, the Eastern is pictured on the right and the Western is on the left. Note the coloration differences, traits and the sizes.

Again, the Eastern is on the right, Western on the left. These are males. Markings are similar to an extent but once you get the hang of it you can clearly see how very different they really are.

What about the Dalmatian tortoise?


Although not currently accepted as a valid taxa (we'll save that debate for another page), the Dalmatian tortoise (Testudo hermanni hercegovinensis) should certainly be brought up and included in the proper differentiation of Hermann's tortoise subspecies. Several involved in the community (myself included) do believe that this subspecies should be ressurected and so we will add it here to the photo series of telling the Hermann's apart.

In these photos, the western is on the left, the Dalmatian is in the middle and the eastern is on the right. Note the differences in all 3 animals. The Dalmatian is sometimes described as a sort of "middle man" for the western and eastern because it is not as variant with less conspicuous markings like the eastern but it is no match for the vibrant, highly contrasted western yet it is typically on the smaller size reaching 6" at the most.

Taking an individual look at the subspecies, we have the western in the first photo showing a rich golden yellow with a severe degree of contrast against the jet black markings, the Dalmatian in the middle with some notable contrast but lacking the brilliant yellow and then the eastern in the last photo with obscure markings and also a much larger size. 

Face to Face :


The heads of the Hermann's tortoise subspecies are usually (key word here "usually") quite different. The western subspecies holds the easily recognizable subocular patch under and behind each eye on a sleek head with a pointier snout while the eastern exhibits a large, bulky and bulbous head with less coloration and no subocular patch except on young animals. The Dalmatian again finds itself somewhere in the middle. It has a blunt snout with a hooked upper jaw and usually sports yellow-green patches or markings on the top of the head towards the back. It may or may not feature a more subtle version of the subocular patch. 

In these first two photos the head of an adult western Hermann's in pictured to the left and is being compared to a sub adult eastern on the right. This eastern specimen comes from a locale where their skin and shells sport an abundance of yellow coloration. This is how it can get tricky when identifying them however, you can clearly see that although the head of this eastern has a lot of yellow on it, it is still bulkier and does not have a true separated subocular patch. 

In these last two photos, the head of an eastern on the left is compared to that of a Dalmatian on the right. The beak of the eastern is slightly overgrown making it appear similar to the naturally hooked upper jaw of the Dalmatian. Note the Dalmatian head is shorter and blunter. 

What are inguinal scutes?


Inguinal scutes are small triangular scutes usually found in front of each rear leg where the plastron meets the carapace on the "bridge" area of the shell. Over 60% of all Dalmatian tortoises studied in nature lack these scutes or may have only one on one side. Some however, may have them. Almost all western and eastern Hermann's tortoises have inguinal scutes but a small few have been encountered from either subspecies that lack them or one of them. Western tortoises from Sicily will actually lack one or both at times and the even more occasional Greek eastern tortoise will as well. Still, the lack of inguinal scutes is more appropriately assigned to the Dalmatian tortoise and the following images show you what I mean.

Western Hermann's: inguinal scutes present


Dalmatian: inguinal scutes absent

Eastern Hermann's: inguinal scutes present

A Word on Some Minor Details :


On the 4th vertebral scute (V-4) of the carapace, Hermann's tortoises may or may not exhibit a black spot. When present, this black spot is sometimes centered and disconnected from the rest of the dark pigment on that particular scute, or it resembles the center marking of V-2 and V-3 being attached to the rest of pigment and appearing more like a line or stripe. 97% of Western Hermann's in our care feature a black stripe or center spot on V-4 and 99% of Eastern Hermann's in our care are lacking it. I do not consider this a fully reliable indicator for differentiating the two subspecies from one another due to the great variations found in both, but I find it worth mentioning. The reason I don't use this trait as a dead give away to the purity of a subspecies is because in Tuscany, some T. h. hermanni will lack the spot. It has been found to be a classic characteristic sometimes assigned to this strain. In fact, only in our Tuscan group do we find this to be true in a small percentage of our animals. It is not found in any other hermanni locality kept here. The same goes for the shape of the suture between the pectoral and humeral scutes of the plastron. It is sometimes accepted that T. h. hermanni features a strong "U shape" to this seam while T. h. boettgeri has a "V shape" or "zig zag" line. While I do find that many T. h. hermanni do have this U shaped suture, I find that many have a V shape or somewhat of a zig zag line. This should definitely not be accepted as a true indicator for properly telling these two tortoises apart. It is simply unreliable.

"Typical" examples of T. h. boettgeri (left) and T. h. hermanni (right). In the first photo, the fourth vertebral scute (V-4) can be seen as directed by the red arrows on both animals. The central black dot is present in the Western but is lacking in the Eastern. In the second photo, the suture between the pectoral and humeral scutes is shown and outlined in red. In the Eastern, it is a "V shape" while in the Western, it is a strong "U shape". Although these features are easily noted on the two tortoises in these pictures and are in many others, neither can be a 100% reliable detector for properly differentiating the Eastern from the Western Hermann's tortoise due to heavy variation.

Tortoises  -  Introduction Care and breeding - General information   PART one   ..  PART two 

                      -   Species List :                        

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