Hermann’s Tortoise

The Hermann’s Tortoise, Testudo hermanni, is a species of tortoise in the Testudinidae family of tortoises. There are two subspecies: The Eastern Hermann’s Tortoise and The Western Hermann’s Tortoise. The eastern variety is found in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece. The western species is found in eastern Spain, southern France, Corsica, Sardinia, and central Italy.

The eastern subspecies is much larger than the western, reaching sizes up to 11 inches in length. A specimen of this size may weigh 6-9 pounds. The western variety rarely grows larger than 7.5 inches. Some adult specimens are as small as 3 inches long. The western species also 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 olive to yellowish, with isolated dark patches. A particular characteristic is the yellow fleck on the cheek found in most specimens. 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.

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 addition to leaves and flowers, the animals eat fruits as supplementary nutrition. They only eat a small amount of fruit, just enough to satisfy themselves.

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 that they also possess a good sense of time, the position of the sun, the magnetic lines of the earth, and for landmarks. In the late afternoon, they leave their shelters again and return to feeding.