Star Tortoise Garden @
Star Tortoise Garden @

Boy or Girl Angulate?

Sexing baby angulates

Baby angulate / angulated / bowsprit tortoises (Chersina angulata) are difficult or impossible to sex because the gender characteristics have not yet developed. The length of tail, size of gular, plastron concavity, and shell shape will change with age as the tortoise matures.

Rule of thumb for juveniles: If the baby tortoise looks like a boy, it's a boy. If the baby tortoise looks like a girl, it could be a girl or a boy. Simple, right? :O)

angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata) hatchling’s plastron

In angulate hatchlings, the gular shield is short and wide. Same for the anal scutes. Both are almost straight lines. Both will change as the tortoise grows.

Sexing adult angulates

Unlike with most small tortoise species, angulate males can grow larger than females. Adult males have longer gular shields (throat shields), longer tails, and concave plastrons. In adult males, the body shape tends to be flatter and longer, and the posterior carapace can be wider and flare out.

Adult female angulates have shorter gulars, shorter tails, flat plastrons, and more domed shells. The carapace may look a bit more rounded and less flared at the back.

As you see in the photos below, the shape of the supracaudal scute and the bony tail opening can look very similar in both sexes. If you have a subadult or adult pair, you will see the difference in the shape and length of the tails. Also, a female's cloacal opening looks more roundish while a male's one looks more like a slit towards the tip of the tail.

Note: For shell details (gular shield, supracaudal scute, and so on), see the shell scutes diagrams.

female Chersina angulata

Female angulate tortoise. Tail is short, fat, and stubby with a little tip.

male angulate tortoise

Male angulate tortoise. The tail is a little longer and shaped more like a deep letter V. You may occasionally see your male tortoise "flash" his male organ. Here's a photo of it. Caution: The photo in the link is illustrative and may not be suitable for small children or sensitive individuals.

male angulate tortoise

Male angulate tortoise. This photo shows the shape of the tail and the long slit, or groove, of the cloacal opening. I took this photo right after he pooped so the vent is still a bit open.

angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata) pair

A mature, breeding age pair. The male on the left is a bit more elongated in body shape and has more of a flare in the back. This flaring is not present in very young males. The female on the right is more rounded in overall shape and flares very little in the back.

angulate / bowsprit female tortoise

Adult female angulate. Notice the shorter length of the gular scute (throat shield). The tail is tucked in so you cannot see the tip of it. The belly is flat.

Note: Many angulates, like the one above, have very red bellies. It's not a sign of illness, but a feature of the species. One of the local names for angulates is "Rooipens skilpad" (red bellied tortoise).

angulate / bowsprit male tortoise

Adult male angulate. The gular shield is noticeable longer than in the female. Males use their gulars to overturn each other during fights. As usual, the tail is tucked in and hard to see. The belly is slightly concave.

Related page: breeding angulates

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