Can My Tortoise Hear Me?

Lots of people strongly feel that their tortoise can hear them, recognize their names, or learn tricks.

Tortoises and turtles do not hear much. They only seem to process and respond to a few sound frequencies- those made by hatching eggs, or mating and dueling adults. This makes sense since they don’t use sounds or noises to communicate much (outside of some sub-sonic noises they can make that travel through ground or water readily), nor could they use sounds to better hear their predators. So- why bother hearing much?

Tortoises are intelligent, though, and can see, smell, tell time to some extent, and sense vibrations well. These combine to make it easy for them to sense your footsteps, realize it is about feeding time, smell the food and/or you, and put all this together and come out to meet you. It is also obvious that they learn to recognize their owners- probably also by sight, smell, and vibration patterns.

They can learn tricks- but they have to be at least somewhat motivated. By the same token, your cat and dog can learn tricks- which one is easier to motivate?, especially considering your dog is motivated by just a little praise from you. it can be done- as shown in this video (which took him 10 years to teach!)

Still think your tortoise knows its name? Just test it with your voice over the phone or on tape. Does the tortoise still respond?