In late February, Hermann’s tortoise emerges from under a bush or old rotting wood, where it has spent the winter months hibernating, buried in a bed of dead leaves (4). Immediately after surfacing from its winter resting place, Hermann’s tortoise commences courtship and mating (4). Courtship is a rough affair for the female, who is pursued, rammed and bitten by the male, before being mounted (2). Aggression is also seen between rival males during the breeding season, which can result in ramming contests (2).
Between May and July, female Hermann’s tortoises deposit between two and twelve eggs into flask-shaped nests dug into the soil (2), up to ten centimetres deep (4). Most females lay more than one clutch each season (2). The pinkish-white eggs are incubated for around 90 days and, like many reptiles (2), the temperature at which the eggs are incubated determines the hatchlings sex. At 26 degrees Celsius, only males will be produced, while at 30 degrees Celsius, all the hatchlings will be female (4). Young Hermann’s tortoises emerge just after the start of the heavy autumn rains in early September, and spend the first four or five years of their lives within just a few metres of their nest (2). If the rains do not come, or if nesting took place late in the year, the eggs will still hatch but the young will remain underground and not emerge until the following spring (4). Until the age of six or eight, when the hard shell becomes fully developed, the young tortoises are very vulnerable to predators, and may fall prey to rats, badgers, magpies, foxes, wildboar and many other animals. If they survive these threats, then Hermann’s tortoises may live for around 30 years (4).
Hermann’s tortoise is almost entirely herbivorous, feeding on a variety plants which are found in its habitat (4), generally in the late afternoon and evening (2). This includes clover, dandelions, strawberries, and numerous other plants and herbs (4). To supplement this plant-based diet, Hermann’s tortoise eats smaller amounts of earthworms, snails, slugs and insects (2), and also feeds occasionally on the flesh of dead rabbits, lizards and amphibians (4), and even faeces (2).