|Are you a 'Bo' or are you a 'Bonita'?!|
Size at maturity can be one clue: mature males are significantly smaller than mature females: males are usually about 5" and rarely grow larger than 6 inches (exceptions do occur), while females as large as 12 inches have been reported. Most mature females end up about 8-10 inches large.
The easiest way to tell if you have a male or a female is to look at your tortoise's tail. I have drawn you a diagram, and will show actual photographs below. You can click on the diagram to enlarge it.
|A quick diagram of male and female tails in Russian tortoises|
Females have a short, fat, wedge-shaped tail, in which the cloaca (vent) is shaped like an asterisk (*) or pucker, and is closer to the body. This is important for easier passing of eggs, which are surprisingly large!
|A Russian tortoise egg - woah, that's big!|
Please keep in mind that a small tortoise (4.5 inches or smaller) will usually look female. My male had a small stubby tail until he was almost 5" long (SCL) and then his tail suddenly sprouted and got more pointy. Here is a picture of a baby Marginated tortoise's tail, which are sexed the same way Russian tortoises are:
|This little Marginated tortoise looks female, |
but we won't know for sure until she is MUCH bigger.
|A young male Russian tortoise's tail|
|His tail wasn't very long yet, |
but he carried it tucked to the side,
and the point was much skinnier than it would be in a female.
|A young male's tail.|
|A young male's tail with the slit-shaped cloaca (vent)|
|Woah, now that is one heck of a male tortoise tail. Long and pointy.|
|This is Mila, she was about 5" long when I took this pic|
|Jill was only 4.5" long when I took this pic.|
|This is a 6.5" female's fat, stubby tail. |
This one has some shell damage, so please disregard the shape of the pygal scute above the tail.
|A large, mature female's tail before she ever laid eggs. Note the * shaped vent.|
|Mature female tortoises actually have fat deposits in their tails. |
This gives them their unique shape.
|The cloaca of a tortoise female that has laid eggs.|
I hope this helps you determine whether you have a male or a female Russian tortoise. If you just keep one, then in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter... one of our female's name is 'Timmy' - named by my oldest son when we first got her.