Do Tortoises Have Tails

Do Tortoises Have Tails?

Tortoise’s anatomy is fascinating and marvelous in equal measures and it often has people who are interested in tortoise with many questions. A common one do tortoises have ears or do tortoises have tails we can see the shell. However, spotting a pair of ears or a tail is a whole different story. 

Yes, every species of tortoise has a tail which can help identify the sex of your tortoise. Male tortoises generally have large tails tucked up and to the side of the shell. While female tortoises tend to have much smaller tails dropped down. 

Ok, so yes they have a tail and it helps identify the sex but that is not all there is to the tail. I know I had many more questions about the tortoise tail why it wiggles to wondering if it’s true that tortoise can drink through their tail. We answer all these questions and give you things to look out for with your tortoise. 

What Is The Purpose Of A Tortoise Tail?

The tortoise tail is more important than you may first believe. As your tortoise doesn’t have the ability to swim then the tail is not used to aid swimming like a fish. Neither do your tortoises use their tail to aid them in climbing as some land-based animals do?

Your tortoises used their tail to aid in mating and it also plays a key role in protection.   

Tortoise Tail For Mating

Male tortoises have their reproductive organ within their tail while female tortoises don’t have any such organ in the tail. 

A male tortoise uses the tail for mating once they are fully grown the tail will have a growth spurt during the mating season sometimes extending beyond the hind legs. 

The male tortoise penis is at the base of the tail the tail growing during mating season allows the tortoise to grip the female. Using the large tail as a finger to locate the cloaca of the female to release its sperm. 

The female will move their tail over to the side to allow the male to carry out the making process.

Tortoise Tail For Protection 

We often think of protection in tortoises being their hard shell however the tail plays a crucial role in protection. 

Tortoises in the wild walk across slippy surfaces and the tail can help keep the tortoise steady. 

Not only do tortoises use the tail to steady themselves they can also use the tail to protect the vents. The vents are used to deposit eggs and mating the tortoise holds the tail tightly over the vents to offer protection. 

Do Tortoises Tails Fall Off?

No, a tortoise’s tail will not fall. The only reason a tortoise will lose its tail is in a fight with another tortoise or predator. If your tortoise damages its tail you will need a vet to offer proper care. 

Can Tortoises Regrow Their Tails?

If a tortoise damages its tail and is injured to the point they lose it a vet should be able to offer care to allow it to heal. However, after your tortoise tail has healed the tail will not regrow to its full length. The tail will have a scare that will slowly fade over many months. 

Tortoise Tail Problems

The tortoise very rarely has problems with its tail and even when tortoises fight they rarely attack the tail. The preferred method of attack is biting the neck and flipping the other onto the shell. 

Tortoises that are let out into the garden in springtime then poop can often become runny as they get used to being back outside. With loose stools, the area around the tail can cause the skin can become loose and sore. 

Tortoise Tail To One Side

When looking at our tortoises we can often be worried about things we have not seen before in this case the tail being to one side.

Seeing a tortoise with its tail to one side can seem strange, however, it is perfectly normal for a male tortoise to walk with its tail to one side. Some tortoises will go years before displaying this behavior and it is more prominent in adult males. 

Tortoise Tail Tucked

Female tortoises are different from male tortoises in how they carry their tale. While a male tortoise can carry their tail to one side a female can carry the tail tucked into the body.

It is perfectly normal for a female tortoise to walk with the tail tucked. The female tortoise tucks the tail to cover the vents. Its believed that it is more noticeable that the female is tucking their tail when they are carrying eggs.

Can Tortoises Drink Through Their Tails?

No, tortoises can not drink through their tail. The misconceptions come from the fact that the tortoise uses the cloaca to soak up water that is located near the tail. 

As the tortoise can take on water not just through the mouth but the cloaca people mistakenly believe a tortoise can drink through the tail. This is not the case and it’s one of the biggest myths in tortoise keeping. 


The tortoise is more important than you may have first thought. The tortoise tail offers protection to a female tortoise and allows the male tortoise to mate.

There are also many myths around the tortoise and the biggest one around the tail is that a tortoise can drink from it. While it sounds fascinating it is not true and we need to be careful with things like this so we offer our tortoise the correct care.

While this may be harmless a myth around the tortoise diet could have dramatic consequences on your tortoise life. 

As a tortoise owner, I’m always learning about these fascinating creatures. I am documenting everything on my blog all the knowledge I have built up over my 15 years of owning a tortoise and keep learning.  

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