ORDER: Chelonia

FAMILY: Testudinidae

GENUS: Testudo

SPECIES: h. hermanni

Head is moderate in size with a non-protruding snout and hooked upper jaw. Head is brown or black. Carapace moderately domed, about eight inches long. The carapace of older tortoises develops a wavy rim. Variable in color: yellow, olive, or orange to dark brown. Lighter individuals have dark blotching. Plastron is dark brown or black with a yellow border and mid seam. Has a divided supra caudal scute. Horny claw-like tail tip in both sexes. The male's tail is longer and more robust.

Southern Europe from southern Italy to the Balkans, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Also found on the Aegean Islands. Prefers evergreen Mediterranean oak forest, but, due to habitat degradation, is found in dry meadows, scrub hillsides, and rocky slopes. Seems to like dense vegetation, but avoids moist places.

Mainly herbivorous, eating both leaves and flowers, fruit and other plant material. Seem to prefer legumes. May supplement diet with earthworms, snails, insects, and carrion. Most feeding occurs in late afternoon and evening.

These tortoises take 10 to 15 years to reach maturity. When mature, they nest in May or June, and lay 2 to 12 pinkish-white eggs in flask-shaped nests in the ground. Several clutches may be laid. Hatch-lings emerge in 90 days. Rival males may ram each other, especially during the breeding season. The horny tip on male's tail is used to stimulate female and sometimes this results in trauma and infection.

In the northern part of their range, they hibernate in October and emerge in April.

Great numbers have been exported as pets. Turtles normally have a long life expectancy, but they have generally less than a year's life expectancy as a child's pet.

1 Male. Our male came to the Zoo after having been found walking down Ashby Avenue in Berkeley in 1989. He is used in our Education and Zoomobile programs and is not viewable by the public.

The most serious threat is habitat loss, especially agricultural intensification and urbanization. Collecting for the pet trade drives the nail into the coffin. Hermann's Tortoises were exported for pets at such a high rate (400,000 in one year from Yugoslavia alone) that they became scarce. On Appendix II of CITES (threatened) and listed as near threatened by the IUCN.


  1. Ernst, Carl and Barbour, Roger. 1989. Turtles of the World, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
  2. Grzimek, Bernhard. 1975. Grzimek
  3. Pritchard, Peter. 1979. Encyclopedia of Turtles. T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
  4. Swingland, Ian and Michael Klemens. 1989. The Conservation Biology of Tortoises. IUCN.