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How to Tell the Gender of Baby Sulcata Tortoises

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It's easy to distinguish between the males and females of some animals, regardless of whether they're juveniles or adults. In the case of many species of tortoises, however, sexing based on physical appearance alone isn't too realistic. Sulcata tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) are certainly no exception to this rule. These reptiles are also often called African spurred tortoises.

Baby Tortoise Gender

Male and female sulcata tortoises are mostly identical on the outside. It takes a while for individuals to start displaying the physical traits of their genders. When young sulcata tortoises reach roughly 12 to 14 inches long, they usually begin to develop characteristics associated either with males or females. They typically attain this length when they're around 3 to 4 years old.


Once sulcata tortoises are old enough, you can make the effort to pinpoint their sexes simply by looking at them. Boy sulcata tortoises usually have wider and more elongated tails. Female sulcata tortoises' tails tend to be a little less conspicuous.


Mature male sulcata tortoises' plastrons -- or bottom shells -- are shaped a little differently than those of females. The males' are concave. This form assists in making breeding acts go more smoothly. The bottom shells of female sulcata tortoises are flat or slightly convex.

Anal Notches

Tortoises' anal notches are situated between their anal scutes. Male and female sulcata tortoises' notches don't look exactly the same. Those of females are markedly more circular in outline, which makes depositing eggs simpler. The males' anal scutes tend to be broader.

Size Difference

Male sulcata tortoises usually achieve bigger adult sizes than the females. The males routinely weigh a minimum of 120 pounds, while the females generally weigh between 65 and 75 pounds.

Veterinary Analysis for Gender Determination in Babies

You can't really discern between male and female tortoises using your eyes until they get to a certain size or age. Not even experienced veterinarians can make the call merely by looking. Exotic veterinarians can often pinpoint the sexes of young sulcata tortoises via endoscopy.