You’ve done your research, thought hard about it, and you’re down to two options: the Red-Footed tortoise and the Hermann. Both tortoises have their upside and downsides, but you can’t pick both. Only one can occupy that particular spot in your home and heart.
Did you know that tortoises can live for up to 80 to 150 years? Having a tortoise for that long will require an outstanding level of commitment. It would be so disappointing having to accommodate a pet that you do not particularly love. That’s why we recommend looking closely into both options first (even if you already have one) and picking one that appeals to you most.
To help you make this critical decision, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most vital factors you probably haven’t considered yet. Adequate knowledge of their measurement, friendliness, temperament, level of intelligence, etc., will determine the ideal tortoise to have as a pet.
Buckle up, sit tight and prepare to soak up some tort-ally exciting facts that I’m 100% sure you never knew about the Red-Foot or the Hermann. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Red-Footed Tortoise Measurements/Statistics
Scientifically known as Chelonoids carbonaria, the Red-Footed tortoise is the only tortoise species in mainland South America (Argentina, Panama, and Caribbean islands).
The ‘carbonaria’ in their name references their black skin with red hints that resemble hot coals. The coloration in the male and female red-foots varies depending on their geographic location.
Male Red-Footed tortoises are slightly bigger than females. Males have a length of 13.5 inches, while their female counterparts measure about 11.5 inches. The male can also weigh a whopping 20 pounds while the females weigh 11 pounds.
Red-Footed tortoises are inactive for the better part of the day. They rest for about 50% of the day and may even relax for the next 5-10 days after a heavy meal.
The males are polygynous, meaning they mate with more than one female. If you want to have a red-foot at home, be prepared to make room for 3 or 4 other females. This species tends to breed anytime between April and May.
The males become sexually active once they’re approximately 200 to 250 mm in length. That’s about five years.
A single female can lay a clutch of around 5 to 15 eggs. This number is subject to go higher, especially during the nesting season. The average incubation period for Red-Footed tortoises ranges between 117 and 158 days. The hatchlings become independent as soon as they dig themselves out of their nest.
There’s no specific population estimate of the Red-Footed tortoise. The International Union has no evaluation for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, the biggest threat is none other than us, the human species. People in South America hunt the Red-Footed tortoise in thousands. Their eggs are considered a rich protein source for people living in underdeveloped areas.
Hermann’s Tortoise Measurements/Statistics
It’s known scientifically as Testudo hermanni. The division of their population is into two subspecies: the eastern and the western.
The western Hermann subspecies are prevalent mostly around Corsica, Sicily, Sardinia, Minorca, southeast France, and northeast Spain. Their eastern counterparts are in western Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, and eastern Italy.
Hermann is medium-sized and measures approximately 13 to 20cm, which is roughly 5 to 8 inches. The western subspecies can reach a length of up to 28 cm or 11 inches and weigh about 7 to 9 pounds (3 to 4kg). On average, the female weighs more than the male by 12%.
Hermann’s tortoise is herbivores with their diet consisting majorly of herbaceous and succulent plants. They tend to prefer clovers and legumes to grasses. They occasionally feed on invertebrates like carrion, snails, and worms. When you opt to keep this tortoise as a pet, it’s advisable to keep them on a strict plant-only diet.
Sources such as the IUCN Red list do not offer an exact population size of Hermann’s tortoise. They’re currently listed as Near Threatened (NT) since there’s a decrease in their numbers.
Like their Red-Footed counterparts, Hermann’s tortoises are also promiscuous (polygynandrous) species. When choosing a quality mate, the female will use a variety of visual cues while the male uses high-pitched calls to attract a mate.
Hermann’s tortoises often breed after hibernation in the winter, roughly around February. Females start nesting in May and lay anywhere around 2 to 12 eggs. The eggs take about three months to hatch, which is around August and mid-September.
Unlike the Red-Footed tortoise hatchlings, the tiny Hermanns are entirely dependent on their mom until they grow to about 4 or 5 years old. By this time, the establishment of their physical form is complete, and they can feed themselves.
Is it possible to train a tortoise just as you would a dog? It is, at least for the Red-Footed tortoise. You can conduct positive reinforcement training on your Red-Foot by rewarding them for a commendable action.
You can reward them using dandelions, red beet, carrot, or even their favorite food. It might take anywhere between 2 to 3 months before the tortoise gets the hang of it, but it will catch on soon enough.
Red-foot tortoises are known to throw tantrums for the most unbelievable reasons. A friend of mine had a 6-year-old Red-Foot who would always throw tantrums. That is whenever her owner forgot to say hi to her whenever she got home from work.
Hermann’s tortoises are also geniuses in their own right. They tend to adapt to their new habitat relatively fast and take the least amount of time to know their way around the place.
They also adapt to everyone around them and may even ask to be fed once in a while. The adaptation is of excellent quality since Hermann is not the biggest glutton. They eat and only when it’s convenient for them.
A Hermann’s tortoise will ‘run’ to the fridge when they smell their favorite meal. They’ll go as far as begging their owner to serve them a treat, and they won’t budge until they get what they want!
Hermann’s tortoises are highly intelligent, but their feistiness is out of this world. They’ll do whatever they want with little regard to what you have to say about it.
If you were to hold a barbecue in your backyard, Hermann’s would stick around your patio, patiently waiting to get a treat to some vegetable treats. If they don’t get anything within a certain period, their next course of action will be to nip their toes to put their point across.
The one thing that both tortoises have in common is long-term memory. When both species train in groups, they’re bound to learn a lot faster than training separately.
Case in point, other tortoises will learn from watching one tortoise perform a particular action and try it themselves. Once they master the craft, they’ll do it for the rest of their lives with very few chances of forgetting what they’ve learned.
Red-Footed tortoises are healthy most of the time, provided you maintain their habitat and diet. Other factors you need to keep regular tabs on will include their lighting, temperature, and humidity. It’s pretty uncommon for a red-foot tortoise to fall sick, no matter their age or gender.
Overhandling is known to leave a negative impact on a tortoise’s health. You’ll need to sanitize or wash your hands before and after touching your shelled friend. They’re susceptible species that require the highest form of care and attention. When their enclosure is left unattended for more than two days, that might trigger the appearance of parasites that may cause respiratory illnesses.
You may also need to take out your tortoise for a fresh round of UV lighting, calcium, and Vitamin D. Failure to do so may lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD). This condition paralyzes their systemic health and weakens their bones.
When it comes to health, Hermann’s tortoise is your best bet. However, like all other tortoises, this species is vulnerable to respiratory ailments such as pneumonia. They often fall sick during the mating seasons, when the male is bound to get aggressive with females and other males.
When buying Hermann’s, it’s best to buy them directly from a breeder. Doing so will ensure that you get one that doesn’t hail from a source that’s rife with unknown tortoise ailments. Although they may be a little expensive, those precious bucks will be worth it in the long run.
For both tortoises, you need to check their shell for odd malformations and bumps. Their mouth, nose, and eyes should be crystal clear with little to no signs of discharge. Their fecal vent is another area you want to check. Your pet’s feces should not be watery but well-formed and moist.
Red-Footed tortoises are naturally courageous, outgoing, and curious creatures. They make excellent choices of pets owing to their ease of care and one-of-a-kind personalities. Because of this, you must have a spacious outdoor pen where they’ll be free to roam and explore their environment.
Red-Footed tortoises spend a considerable chunk of their time digging, climbing, soaking, grazing, roaming, and basking. Once they’ve had a fulfilling meal, they’ll remain still and awkwardly inactive for a couple of hours.
A red-foot tortoise has the fantastic ability to remember its favorite spots. They’re not territorial in any way and only become aggressive during mating season. They interact with their mates using a series of clucks. These unique sounds are prominent, especially during mating and courtship.
One behavior that you’re sure to pick up on is head bobbing. Tortoises don’t have a flexible diaphragm. For that reason, you may find a tortoise shaking its heads quite often, which helps to pump oxygen down its throats while breathing.
Red-Footed tortoises don’t like handling. Though they don’t bite, their bites are known to be extremely painful and long-lasting.
It may take a while for your red-foot tortoise to adapt to its new environment. The red-foot tortoise is extremely shy on the first encounter but learns to adjust within a few weeks of constant interaction.
If you really must handle this tortoise, it’s advisable to use both hands to support its sensitive plastron. While holding it, ensure you keep it close to the ground.
And now on to Hermann’s tortoise. This species of tortoise is known to bite only for self-defense. They’re passive, laid-back, and gentle creatures that love human interaction. Like the Red-foot, these tortoises prefer being on the ground with minimal handling. Another recommendation is you handle them four times per week for 15 minutes.
It’s advisable to wait at least a day after bringing them into your home before you start handling them. Though it’s unclear how long you have to wait before placing your hands on your new pet, it’s bound to be shorter based on your Red-Foot’s temperament. Some of them are friendlier than others.
You can bond with your tortoise by treating them more often and catering to their needs more than anyone else in your family. It will memorize your face, mannerisms and quickly warm up to you.
It’s not such a good idea to house Hermann’s tortoise in a single enclosure. The tortoise may become stressed and display the highest aggression when confined in the same space.
Also, unless you want to breed your tortoises, it’s not advisable to breed two Hermann’s tortoises of different sexes. When the mating season kicks in, the male Hermann’s tortoise becomes violent toward the female. They’ll ram them and chase them around in a bid to inflict pain on them.
Hermann’s tortoises are known for their bold, black markings, with their brown or yellow shells. Their strong legs and thick scales also complement their sheer beauty. Under the shell, Hermann’s tortoise’s body is typically grayish brown.
Both males and females have a hooked upper jaw that’s otherwise known as a beak. Their tails are short, with a sharp spike at the tip known as a spur.
Their tails have earned them the fascinating name “the Mediterranean spur-tailed tortoise” in some places. Their feet also have short, sharp, and dark claws that they use for digging or burrowing.
A female Hermann’s tortoise is typically larger than a male’s. A male Hermann’s tortoise makes up for their smaller size with their long tails. The tips of their tails also have a more prominent spur.
The subspecies from the west also have a smaller size than the more common eastern subspecies. Like every other tortoise, Hermann’s tortoises are cute-looking with adorable physical features.
Red-Footed tortoises have a bumpy, concave shell and mostly-black skin with black shells, and other color variants include brown and gray. Young Red-Footed tortoises have a tan or yellow coloring around each bump. As they develop, bright red marks are bound to appear on the tortoise’s head.
The male Red-Footed tortoise is known to have a longer tail and a more concave plastron. On the other hand, the females have a rather stubby tail with a flat plastron. Male Red-Footed tortoises may also grow up to 34 centimeters or 13.5 inches more than the females who grow to 28.5 centimeters or 11.25 inches. Mature male tortoises may weigh up to 9 kilograms or 20 pounds.
Ease to Look After
The Red-Footed tortoise is one of the most cooperative tortoises. They’re easy to look after, and they do exceptionally well on their own. This tortoise is not much of a climber either.
Red-Footed tortoises are just the right size for handling, and they have attractive color patterns on their shells, legs, and head. The Red-Footed tortoises adapt fast to climates in captivity. They’re also easy to acquire and relatively cheaper compared to Hermann’stortoise.
When it comes to feeding, Red-Footed tortoises are ever the eager eaters. They’ll eat any leafy green you offer them without having a higher preference. They primarily feed on leaves, flowers, and veggies. Compared to most other tortoise species, the Red-Footed reptiles need a higher portion of protein in their serving.
You can offer yours a supplemental food source such as earthworms, super worms, mealworms, and waxworms.
If you have a little one in your home, keep them as far away as you can from the red-foot. Constant handling may lead to the spread of the salmonella bacteria, which thrives in the intestines of many reptiles.
The adult Hermann’s tortoise, on the other hand, doesn’t fare particularly well indoors. Keep that in mind before making a pet out of one. However, if you insist on buying one, ensure its outdoor home should have a close resemblance to its native home, the Mediterranean. Look up the climate of Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Italy to understand how cold or hot the temperature should be.
Only move it inside during the colder months. Ensure your enclosure is approximately 2 ft by 4 ft at minimum. Keep your Red-Footed tortoise’s enclosure clean by scooping up the visible wastes often and changing its water pan every day.
What’s the difference between Hermann’sTortoise and the Red-Footed Tortoise?
The Red-Footed tortoise hails from the South American agricultural areas and rainforests. Hermann’s tortoises hail from Mediterranean Europe and southern France, North-eastern Spain, and Southern Europe. The Hermann tortoise thrives in dry and wet conditions, while the Red-Footed tortoise does well in arid and semi-arid conditions.
The Red-Footed tortoises are one of the larger turtle species that can reach between 11 and 14 inches. Some may consider them a handful due to their considerable size. The Hermann’s tortoise gets between 5 and 8 inches in length. Though 11 inches doesn’t seem significant, it may require a bigger cage that spans approximately 600 sq. inches worth of space.
Simply put, Hermann’s tortoise is an extrovert while its Red-Footed counterparts are insanely introverts. Hermann’s tortoises make better pets due to their outgoing, gentle and calm personalities.
They’re into outdoor activities such as sunbathing, climbing, and digging. The Red-Footed tortoises are extremely shy. They burrow themselves and take cover at the sight of an external presence. They’re easy-going, docile, and don’t like handling. Oh, and they bite too!
Red-Footed tortoises’ shell area has a mix of dark brown and black with coverings of yellow or tan blotches. Their heads and legs feature red, orange, and yellow markings. Hermann’s tortoise is attractive with its brown and yellow carapace, strong legs, and thick scales.
The eastern species displays a less bright carapace with ochre, tan, yellow or olive color. Its markings are either faded or frayed.
Pros and cons of Hermann’s Tortoise
- They’re visually attractive
- They exhibit sociable personalities (charming, funny, friendly, etc.)
- They’re indoor and outdoor creatures
- Easy to feed and maintain (they enjoy being hand-fed)
- They love the attention
- Their small size makes them easy to contain
- They’re adaptable and flexible
- They thrive mainly in the outdoors, thus lessening the need to create an indoor enclosure.
- They love climbing and burrowing
- Aggressive toward the opposite sex
Pros and cons of Red-Footed Tortoise
- They’re gentle, shy, and curious creatures.
- They do pretty well on their own. I.e., there’s no need to buy an extra Red-Footed tortoise.
- They’re among the most intelligent tortoise species
- Undeniably attractive physical appearance.
- Easy to feed
- Easy on the budget
- You can make a profit from selling their hatchlings
- It requires simple lighting and heating set-ups.
- Breeding males tend to be highly aggressive.
- Humid housing leads to a foul smell around the home.
- Their relatively bigger size means a bigger enclosure and more maintenance.