Testudo hermanni hermanni:

Western Hermann's tortoise


The tortoises native to Calabria on the Italian mainland (referred to as Calabrese) often stand apart from more classic forms such as Tuscany, Apulia or Campania. Italian people report that they share a mix of traits between other continental forms and some insular populations. One explanation for this  could be the location of Calabria in extreme southwestern Italy, not far from the island of Sicily. In fact, Sicily and Calabria are as close as two miles apart in the narrowest area of the Strait of Messina which divides them. The theory is that tortoises collected in the past from Sicily may have been released into Calabria. Our Calabrese animals certainly fall more into a continental description but it is nothing less than true that atypical traits pop up in animals here and there.


  • Round to slightly trapezoid in shape, males may be particularly trapezoid

  • Second vertebral scute straight edged

  • Usually 50/50 black to gold ratio on carapace

  • Lemon yellow to sometimes orangish ground color 

  • Greenish to dark colored head

  • Subocular usually not conspicuous

  • Head has regular contours and narrow

  • Smaller size usually, large specimens not uncommon

  • 4 or 5 light colored nails on each front foot, usually 5

  • Suture between humeral and pectoral scutes is "U" shaped

  • "Gular Mustache" absent most of the time

  • Produce 1-2 clutches of 1-3 eggs

  • Small hatchlings, usually light colored

  • Keyhole on fifth vertebral scute usually very well defined

Calabrese tortoises are a beautiful, compact example of Italy's Testudo hermanni hermanni. Literature once stated that they were considered to be the smallest of all westerns. While there absolutely are petite specimens, we now know that other forms such as Mount Etna are possibly smaller or the smallest. In our collection of western Hermann's tortoises, the Calabrese animals are on the smaller side but definitely not the smallest with males reaching 5.33" and females reaching 5.96" on average. Looking at some of these photos, the usual coloration, darker colored head with a less intense subocular spot and general size can be understood.

Weight varies of course and some females will make it just past 500 grams while others obviously surpass this. Very early on in life, hatchlings exhibit the tell tale markings of Testudo hermanni hermanni and are usually on the lighter side with less contrast while so young.