Horsfieldi is a species of Mediterranean Tortoise and a tortoise that hibernates through the winter months.

 

Horsfieldi tortoises are not as active as other mediterranean tortoises and do spend a lot of their time sleeping.

 

Testudo Horsfieldi

Horsfieldi tortoises tend to be more round in shape and the skin tends to be a pale yellow/lime green in colour. They also have a small horny bit on the end of their tail. The tail of the male horsfeildi is thicker and longer than the female but it can take 4-5yrs before you can sex your tortoise.

They are a small to medium tortoise that can live to well over 100yrs, so you need to be prepared for this. You need to think about their future and what will happen to them.


How to look after your Horsfieldi Tortoise

 

Most tortoises in the wild are solitary animals and this, in most cases, is true in this country. If you are told that they have to be in pairs they are only trying to make more money. If you do want to keep a few Horsfieldi then please keep females as you have a better chance of these getting on with each other, but I have found that some will not. Horfsieldi tortoises seem more placid so they may get on better than the other mediterranean species.

If you wish to keep a male tortoise with your females then please ensure that the ratio is at least 3 females to 1 male. This will mean that the male will not be pestering the one female all of the time.

Horsfieldi are quieter tortoises but they still need as large an area as possible and also an exciting area. It doesn't matter whether this is a tortoise table for young juveniles or an outdoor area, both can be made interesting to keep them busy.

Juveniles

For these you really need to get yourself or make yourself a tortoise table. They must not be put into any sort of Vivarium. A tortoise table can be bought but it is so easily made from an old bookcase turned onto its back, some planks of wood and a piece of plywood, an old chest with the lid off, or even a drawer from under a divan bed. Here is a picture of the latter.

 

 

 

As you can see this had a substrate of 50 topsoil / 50 play pit sand with a few stones and rocks to add interest. There is a reflector spot bulb so that the tortoise has a basking area (see indoor area for details of bulbs etc). There is a plastic lid off a pet food can used to provide clean water at all times and a log roll with plants so that the tortoise has somewhere safe to hide and sleep.

One thing that you must make sure is that the sides are filled in so that they cannot see through them and that they are high enough so that the tortoise cannot climb out. Also be aware that they can push things to the side to climb over.

Also remember that although juveniles are best homed in a tortoise table on sunny days they should be allowed to go outside. For this make a safe enclosed area in the sunny part of the garden should ne provided and put a mesh lid on top to stop anything from taking your tortoise.

 

Indoor Area

This should be as large as possible and needs to be able to provide a warm area for them all of the year round. A good size is 1metres x 2metres for an adult as long as they can get outside as well

They will stay indoors a lot of the time, especially in spring and autumn so this has to be a suitable size and the temperatures must be right. To get this right you will probably have to use heaters and lamps (details after picture)

This is a large Dog Kennel that I got and it is really good which we have put electric to

 

 

Inside the dog kennel there is a wooden division in the middle which means that the left side is sheltered. Here I have a reflector spot bulb (R95) inside a metal shade hanging so that the bottom of the shed can get to 30C. This is the temperature that tortoises like to get their body to before eating and it also enables them to digest the food correctly.

 

You could also have a tubular heater in the shed that can come at night when the temperatures drop below 15C.

I have my spot bulb on a timer so that they come at 7am in the morning until 7pm at night. If the weather is really hot then I will set the timer to go off at 10am and on at 3pm to save some electric. But to be honest if it is hot they still go into the shed under their lamps. 

 

You are trying to achieve a basking temperature of 30C on the floor, a background daily temperatures of 20-30C for approximately 12 a day, and the night temperature of 15C, but the basking lamps must not be on at night.

From the indoor area they must be able to get outside during the day. The dog kennel above has a doorway which I hang plastic down so that they can see through. Another way is to cut a cat flap which can be opened in the morning and closed at night.

 

 

Outdoor Area

Your tortoises need a safe outdoor area that is enclosed and must be a good size to make it interesting for them. A good size of 5m x 5m would be alright to start with.

Tortoises need to exercise to keep their muscles strong so put some log rolls in so that they walk both sides and this makes them to walk further, also give then sloping areas and hills, all this will make their muscles stronger.

It needs to have an area that is weedy so that they can graze, 50 topsoil / 50 play pit sand to dig in and bask in. It must be well drained and preferably south facing as this way your tortoise will get the most sun. They do need shrubs so that they can hide and also take shelter when they wish to.

They do need some hard areas which help to keep their toes nails short. I usually put slabs just outside the door area which also helps to prevent wet soil going into the house.

 

This area also needs tall walls around it to ensure that the tortoises cannot escape. If they can see through it they will try and escape. Also do not plant any climbers up the fencing because they will climb them and flip over the wall.

The area must be free from pesticides, weed killers, slug pellets etc. If you have used these please be aware that they will kill your tortoise. Also be aware that compost must not be used because it has fertilizers added, this also means that bought pot plants must not be fed to tortoises for about 3 weeks so that the fertilizer is removed.

 

Also ensure that any areas like steps or ponds are totally screened off from your tortoises. They cannot swim and will drown if they fall in and they can easily fall off rockeries and steps and damage themselves. I have used the large log rolls here which are sloped slightly inwards, which prevents them from climbing up. In fact the area is so large that they do not even try to get through or over it. The area behind is backfilled with soil.

 

Water

Horsfieldi like all tortoises must have water available to drink. You must be able to keep the water clean and changed every day for them, they will use is regularly. I use a sunken plant pot saucer, which I can keep clean and is safe for them to get in and out off, but make sure it is not a deep one. Don't forget that tortoises cannot swim.

 

Diet

A natural diet is very important for tortoises which should involve a combination of weeds and wild flowers. It should be very high in fibre and very low in protein. They do not eat meat as they are herbivores and they do not need to eat fruit either. Look at the food section to see what foods are suitable for them.

I do not recommend any of the commercial dried foods at all for tortoises. They do not have them in the wild and do not need them in captivity so please throw them away.

There is a new product called Pre Alpin which I stock. This is all weeds and wild flowers which are grown abroad and then dried. I find that once soaked it provides a very fibrous food which many tortoises will eat and can be given as part of a good diet during the summer and is great for the tropical tortoises during the colder months. This you can purchase through me at my shop on here and through BATK events batk.org.uk. Each sale provides a donation to BATK and the Jill Martin Fund which are two charities that help tortoises in need.

If you have any questions about the pre alpin please contact me at please go to the seperate page and shop.

 

Additives

Horsfieldi, like all tortoises, must have Calcium for their body to grow and function properly, so this needs to be provided on all of their food. You can provide this in two ways mainly. One is by the use of calcium carbonate flour, which can be purchased from an equine supplier (reasonably priced) or from any BATK event (cheap) batk.org.uk. Some pet shops do sell it but it can be expensive.

 

You can also provide cuttlefish for them. Some will eat it but some will not. Some prefer it when it has been in the garden for a few months in the bad weather. I would suggest that you break it in two, which makes it easier for them to eat. For juveniles you can grate it and put some into the area, but do not use you household grater as it will get ruined, get a cheap one.

  

They also need to have a supplement and I recommend Nutrobal. For juveniles they need a very small pinch 3 times a week and adults need a pinch twice a week. Nutrobal has vitamins, D3 and some calcium carbonate in it so it is a good all rounder.

 

 

Weekly Advice

Although you must provide clean, fresh water every day your tortoise will also benefit from a weekly soak. To do this get a bowl of warm water, which is deep enough to cover the plastron but allows the tortoise to lift its head out of the water when it wants to.

You can then take this opportunity to check your tortoise over for any problems. You can also wash your tortoise with an antibacterial handwash if you wish which will help to keep the shell clean. 

I also take this opportunity to weigh my tortoises which I keep in records. This enables me to spot if they have not been eating. If a juvenile, then I am looking for a slow but steady increase in their weight and plastron length. In an adult I would expect my tortoise to be a little heavier than what it was the same time last year. Records are very handy to take to a "Tortoise Vet" if you have to visit one so please keep them. Your tortoise should feel like a nicely filled pie, not too heavy, not too light.

Things to check your tortoise for are: Shell should have no damage looking for shell rot and loose scutes. Skin should be free from any cuts. Toes should be complete and not too long. Nose should be clear from any mucus/bubbles. Mouth should be clear with pink tongue. Eyes should be black and shiny with no cloudiness. Tail should be clean and free from diarrhoea and damage.

 

Hibernation

Horsfieldi tortoises do need to hibernate and this needs to be taken into account when getting a tortoise. Please go to the page on Hibernation where this will be explained thoroughly.

 

Injuries that can happen

 

DOGS love to CHEW tortoises because they are like a calcium bone, so NEVER leave them together alone. I have had people over the years say "my dog is fine" yet months, years later they phone and say "please help my dog has attacked my tortoise". Learn from this.

Lawn mowers and vehicles can cause very serious injury.

Other tortoises can get very aggressive causing damage like bites and knocks.

Children can often drop tortoises and this will damage or kill them, supervise them.

Sharp objects left lying around can injure them or they may get stuck in them

Tortoises left out at night can be attacked by foxes, rats, hedgehogs, badgers etc.

 

 

Bad things that can cause problems

Lack of exercise leads to muscular problems and must be avoided so ensure they have a large are to exercise and live in.

Kitchen food and fruit will cause diarrhoea and digestive problems. The correct foods take about 2-3 weeks for them to digest where as these foods only take about 1 week. This is too fast, bad for them and will cause digestive problems.

NO dog or cat food as they are herbivores and the protein will lead to MBD, shell deformities, obesity and kidney disease and failure.

High humidity, dampness and cool conditions should be avoided to prevent RNS.

Never add one species with another species as they all need different husbandry. Even though most Mediterranean's have the same basic husbandry they have different bacteria, viruses and pathogens that cause great problems for another species. Don't risk it.

Never put someone else's tortoise with yours for any reason without quarantining. 18 months is recommended.

Fruit is not eaten much in the wild and it raises the lactic acid levels, which will cause internal parasites.

Avoid foods that contain Oxalic Acid as this binds the calcium so that it cannot be used by the body. These foods are the brassica's and pea families.

Horsfeildi, like all tortoises are prone to pyramiding which is caused by the wrong husbandry, feeding and additives. 

Do not allow a vet to give your tortoise a vitamin injection especially before hibernation. They should not need it if they foods and husbandry is correct.

Garden Ponds are dangerous to a tortoise as they cannot swim and they will drown.

Do not drill a hole through their shell. Underneath the keratin outer layer they have nerves and blood vessels. They can feel through their shell and it will also encourage bacteria to enter and cause shell rot and infection.

 

 Breeding

Horsfieldi reach maturity at about 15yrs in the wild but they may reach it at 6yrs in captivity. They will lay between 2-12eggs per clutch and they may achieve 2 clutches per season. The female will need to have a laying area ready for her to lay. The best place may be on a dry slope, in full sun. You will need to dig a large hole and fill it with 50% loam / 50% play pit sand. She will dig to about 7-9cms and lay her eggs and then fill the hole up again. This can take a few hours for her to complete and you may miss it, this is why weighing them is also important. A female tortoise puts on a lot of weight when making the eggs and will suddenly lose it after laying, so this is a sign. She may also go off her food before laying and probably pace around the area as if on edge. If you are thinking about breeding or having a male tortoise with females then you will also need to provide lots of calcium as she will need it.

 

 Illnesses

 

Simple Injuries

A simple injury can be treated with diluted Betadine and cleaned. Cover with a plaster and keep clean. If the injury is bad then you do need to go to a tortoise vet.

 

All injuries / illnesses

The best advice that I can give you is to get your tortoise to a proper tortoise vet and make sure that you get the best advice out there. It takes a special vet to deal with tortoises.

Vets List

 There is a list on a seperate page of suggested suitable vets.