The Eastern Hermann’s is a very hardy and adaptable subspecies that does well in a variety of captive environments. They are a very personable and active tortoise. Many keepers remark at their tortoise’s high level of curiosity.
In the wild they inhabit a large, diverse geographical range from as far north as Bulgaria and Romania to the Mediterranean coastal countries, Greece and into Turkey. They are generally found in the transitional areas between the hardwood forests and meadows where there is an abundance of low growth shrubs and plants. The topography in their habitat is often rocky and rich in calcium and other minerals. The tortoises benefit from these minerals by directly consuming them as well being taken in within the natural growth plants that they consume. While they are considered a Mediterranean species the more northern populations exist in what can be considered a true temperate climate with well defined seasons that include long, cold winters. This ability to evolve and thrive in such diverse environments is what makes this tortoise so adaptable in captivity.
Mature males range in size from 5.5-6.5”, occasionally larger examples are seen. When viewed from above males are typically wider at the rear of their carapace, often with considerable flaring of the rear marginal scutes. Males will have a concave plastron and large prominent tail. The supracaudal scute is turned inward toward the tail. The tail is long and very thick, especially at the base. The vent or anal opening is slit shaped with a groove from it to the tip of the tail. The tip contains a hard, horn like “nail” at the end which is a classic feature of all Hermann’s subspecies.
Females range in size from 6-8” with occasionally, but rarely, larger examples being seen. When viewed from above their shape is uniformly oval with some slight flaring at the rear marginal scutes. Their plastron is usually flat, but may sometimes be slightly concave in some individuals. Their tail is small by comparison to a males. The vent is located at the base of the tail and round. The tail has a horned tip at the point. Their plastron can vary from no black markings to nearly completely black throughout. Eastern Hermann’s will always have inguinal scutes present in front of their rear legs at the bridge where the carapace meets the plastron. There are of course, exceptions and larger examples, although rare nowadays, are occasionally seen in the tortoise hobby. Eastern’s are rarely smaller (when mature) than the sizes above.
Their coloration consist of combined patterns of yellow and black. Young animals often have some brown as well. Patterns vary from animal to animal but the colors are much the same throughout. The difference being the intensity of the coloration. In captivity individuals from various wild populations have been bred with each other for generations. The Eastern Hermann’s available in captivity today are a combination of many different regional influences in regard to color, pattern and size. There are rare examples of nearly all yellow and almost all black individuals but they aren’t commonly seen.
Eastern Hermann’s aren’t considered communal animals and usually live a semi solitary life. They probably do come in contact with each other frequently during the spring when breeding is most active and throughout the summer and early fall where food and water is abundant. Males can be territorial and will often defend their areas very aggressively, to the point of injury, against other males. Females too can sometimes be subjected to the male’s aggressiveness if she isn’t ready to breed with the male. For this reason a male should not be kept together with other males or with females other than for breeding. Especially given the much smaller quarters that tortoises are kept in while in captivity. Females are usually non-aggressive toward each other and able to co-habitat in small numbers. Although it is not uncommon for an individual in a group of females to take on the dominant role and act much like a male would. In most instances is it only an act and no harm comes from it.
Hermann’s, as well as most other tortoise species, are considered to be vegetarians. Their diet consists of low growing leafy green plants, succulents and fresh growth of plant shoots. They’ll also take advantage of seasonal flowers, vegetables and fruits. They’ve been known to consume an occasional snail, slug or earthworm too although not considered to be part of their regular diet. They are evolved to consume large quantities of high fiber, often poorly nutritional value foods in the wild. Seasonal foods and natural minerals add to the nutritional value of their diet.
Eastern Hermann’s are an excellent species to maintain outdoors throughout most of the U.S. In southern climates they may be able to be kept outdoors year round depending upon local winter conditions. In mid and Northern states they should be brought indoors and kept awake and active throughout the winter. While they do brumate (hibernate) in the wild this is not necessary to do in captivity. It can be done but there are often risks involved in doing so.