Can Tortoises Hear

Tortoises are not the same as most family pets, while they do respond to their owners over time and it is known that they can learn new tricks.

Many tortoise owners believe their pets can hear them, even respond to their name and learn tricks. How do tortoises hear, and do they really respond to their name?

It’s About Frequencies

The truth of the matter is that your tortoise doesn’t hear much at all. It can process and respond to frequencies, such as those made during fighting, mating, and the hatching of eggs. If you think about it, when have you ever heard your tortoise make any noise?

Relying on Other Senses

Tortoises don’t rely on sound much at all, but they have excellent vision and smell.

Some can tell time pretty accurately, such as the time you get home from work or what time they get fed. They will sense your footsteps and associate that with feeding, they may smell the food while you are preparing it.

With their excellent sight, these reptiles do recognize their owners over time. Though they probably do rely on their other senses, including vibration patterns to help them identify who is approaching them.

Do Tortoises Have Ears?

Humans and most animals have ears that are quickly identifiable, but tortoises’ ears don’t look anything like ours.

They do not have an external ear. The ear is hidden behind the scales on the side of the head. The eardrum is based behind the eyes and also covered in scales.

The bony box around the ear is called the optic capsule, which is not found in any other reptile or animal.

This is why tortoises rely on the sense of touch, they feel the vibrations through the ground. These vibrations head up the legs, onto the shell, and to the eardrum.


While tortoises don’t hear the same as we do, they do hear low sounds much better than higher sounds.

Try speaking to your pet in a low voice. Due to the fact your tortoise doesn’t have the best sound, it uses other mechanisms to protect itself.

It can quickly retreat into its shell if approached and will urinate on the predator, if it tries to pick them up.

2 thoughts on “Can Tortoises Hear”

  1. I think it’s important to note that tortoises don’t actually urinate when picked up. The reason this is important is because picking up a tortoise in the wild can lead to it’s death. When lifting a tortoise (an unnatural position for them), the pressure on the bursal sack (their water storage compartment) is released and the water pours out, leaving the tortoise without water for travel and giving people the impression of urination. If you ever have to move a tortoise out of the road and this happens, it’s essential to place some water nearby for it to rehydrate. Obviously for a pet tortoise you’ll have water nearby, but an important misconception to note as a lot of people tend to pick up wild tortoises.

  2. I live in the Seychelles home to 1000s of giant tortoises, I have 2. The males make a lot of loud grunting noises when mating.

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