Golden Greek Tortoises
- leg spurs -
1-week-old baby Golden sleeping, notice the thigh spurs
Greeks & leg spurs
Greek tortoises (Testudo graeca) are also called "Mediterranean Spur-thighed" tortoises. The photo below shows you why! :O) Look at those big spurs (conical tubercles) on that male Golden Greek's legs.
Greek tortoises can have one, two, or even three spurs on each back leg. Both males and females have leg spurs, and they are already present in baby tortoises. One of my adult Golden Greeks has large double spurs while the others have single spurs.
In many cases, the presence or absence of these leg spurs makes it easy to distinguish between Greek (Testudo graeca) and Hermann's (Testudo hermanni) tortoises. Most Greeks have leg spurs, while most Hermann's do not. Instead, Hermann's tortoises have a terminal "nail spur" (horny scale) at the tip of their tails. Greek tortoises have blunt tails with no nail spurs.
In older Greek tortoises, the thigh spurs can be worn down flat to the skin level. It may then appear like there are no spurs present, especially if the diameter of the spurs is small.
Caution! The absence or presence of thigh spurs can not be relied upon as the only means of determining the species. Some Hermann's tortoises have thigh spurs, and some Greeks do not have spurs.
Double spurs on the back leg of an adult male Golden Greek
Single, worn down spurs on an adult female Golden Greek
Thigh spurs on a 1-month-old Golden Greek baby
Spurs are present at birth. Another hatchling. This one is only 3 days old.
Other spurs & nails
Many other tortoise species have thigh spurs, most notably, the African Spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata). Greeks aka Mediterranean Spur-thighed tortoises stay small, but Sulcatas can grow huge (175+ lb). Sometimes people get confused with these two very different species due to both of their names having the word "spur" in them.
Tail spurs (nails, claws) are present in other species as well. For example, mature male Burmese Star tortoises may have a spur on the tip of their tails. Younger males do not possess these tail spurs.
Tail spur, or nail, on a Burmese Star tortoise male. This terminal spur can be long and shaped like a hook. On the males I've raised, this nail didn't start growing until the tortoise was several years old.
Thigh spurs on a Burmese Star tortoise. This tortoise has no tail spur.