For as long as one can remember, the Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) has been named the smallest of the Testudo tortoises. While this certainly holds plenty of truth, it's important to note that they are not the only petite members of this species group. The Egyptian has been a very popular and well-known species across the globe because of its small size. In a way, this has blinded us to what else may exist in terms of compact or little. In general, Mediterranean tortoises attain what most consider as manageable dimensions. Only some tip the scales so it's not really much of a surprise to come to the realization that several mini examples occur. The Nabeul tortoise or "Tunisian spur thighed tortoise" (Testudo graeca nabeulensis) and the western Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni hermanni) are two examples of just how small other Testudo can be. Now, without going on any further, it's imperative for the reader to never lose sight of variation. This is of course deeply expressed within the western Hermann's tortoise and its forms. Large examples hailing from areas like Sardinia are commonplace and typical sized ones can be found in many locales such as Apulia or Tuscany, for example. But, very small tortoises can be found in areas like Mount Etna. These interesting little Hermann's tortoises are neck and neck with the Egyptian and usually only slightly bigger. When it comes to the Nabeul tortoise, they are also on par with the Egyptian and occasionally even smaller at least with males. Most don't even realize these animals are out there mainly because the Egyptian is much more common in collections or zoos.
T. g. nabeulensis
T. h. hermanni
T. h. hermanni
T. g. nabeulensis
The Egyptian tortoise is the northern hemisphere's smallest tortoise species and although the occasional specimen may be slightly larger than normal, none step far outside their typical tiny physique. Males are particularly petite with some never even surpassing 3". Females may top out at between 4 and 4.5" with only the rare intermittent individual nearing 5". Their wonderful light coloration is an adaptation to their harsh, arid environment enabling them to scurry about the sandy, coastal spaces they inhabit as they move from vegetation patches in search of food and cover. Read more about the Egyptian tortoise here.
Testudo graeca nabeulensis
This little " Greek tortoise" is relatively unknown in American collections and has never been imported the way other members of the T. graeca complex have been. For this reason alone, this tortoise's existence is often beyond the comprehension of most enthusiasts. They were previously described as a full species, "Furculachelys nabeulensis", (Highfield 1990), and some still agree that they should be accepted as such. A very different tortoise indeed and more like their Egyptian cousins in habitat specifics, the Nabeul tortoise is poorly understood at least in the United States. One thing is for sure and that's their diminutive size. Our males are vigorous breeders at only 3" and our females barely reach 5". Their striking contrast is similar to that of the western Hermann's tortoise and although rare and minuscule, they are full of attitude. Read more about them here.
Testudo hermanni hermanni
(Mount Etna, Italy)
If there's one thing we have really gone above and beyond to bring to life on this site it's the various forms/locales of the western Hermann's tortoise. Following the locality map, you've been able to view many variances showing changes in color, specific markings and waves in size spectrum. This tortoise is truly amazing and just like the impressive island giants found in parts of their range, there are also miniature versions like the specimens of Mount Etna, Sicily. These tiny western Hermann's tortoises are chock full of intense coloration and contrast and they really are small. Males may not surpass 3.6" and females seem to top out at no more than 5" with some not even getting there. Absolutely stunning, interesting and compact, the Mount Etna tortoises are in a league of their own but just like the Egyptian and Nabeul tortoises, they surely are a tiny Testudo. Read more about them here.