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Do Tortoises respond to their names?

Discussion in 'Debatable Topics' started by animateash, May 10, 2017.

  1. animateash

    animateash New Member

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    New expecting tortoise parent here (we are adopting a CA desert tortoise from the state and he arrives this weekend).

    Is there solid evidence that tortoises recognize/ respond to the name they've been given? I would think it would make sense from an evolutionary standpoint for creatures with such long lives to have good memories, and also recognize similar sounds.
    I'm asking because our adoptee, a 50yr old male, comes to us with the name "Bobo". No idea where he got it or how long he has had it. It isn't a name I would have picked myself, but I've warmed up to it and if the tortoise is likely to "know" his name I will certainly keep it.

    Thoughts?
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  2. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 5 Year Member Platinum Supporter

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    Lots of arguments on this subject. Here's my thought - tortoises don't hear like we do. They more feel the vibrations. I'm sure they must have some actual hearing, but not like mammals do. Consequently, they won't come if you call them, and the don't recognize words. Now if you knock on their shelter, they will come out to see who's knocking. If they feel the rumble of the sliding door open up they'll come to see if the food god is bring them some food. But recognizing works, no, I doubt it.


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    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?"
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  3. MPRC

    MPRC Well-Known Member

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    I have a 'Bobo" myself, her name is actually Rambo. Mine don't respond to names so much as me waving a treat in front of their face. I say you can call him whatever you like, he's only going to come to you if he wants to anyway.
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  4. animateash

    animateash New Member

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    Ha! I'm interested to see how food motivated he is. Dogs and cats seem very food motivated, but the way people talk about their tortoises makes the worst beggar of a dog seem like an amateur!
  5. animateash

    animateash New Member

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    Thanks for the response. Interesting! I had been told they were sensitive to vibrations but didn't realize that could be in place of most sound altogether. I guess I'll have to do some tests in person.
  6. Big Charlie

    Big Charlie Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes when I call Charlie, he completely ignores me. Other times, he will immediately reverse direction and come right up to me. Is it selective hearing, or is there some other reason? Whether he comes or not depends on whether he thinks I'm going to give him a treat and how much he wants one.
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  7. Gillian Moore

    Gillian Moore Well-Known Member

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    A very interesting subject. Thanks for posting such a thread, @animateash and of course: a very warm welcome to the forum!

    Personally, I do not think torts (and reptiles in general) can hear. However they feel vibrations. This was what we were taught at school, and when a beloved tort (Oli) came into my life, I confirmed it. Mind you, some people believe that torts can hear.
    animateash likes this.
  8. Alicia Hoogstra

    Alicia Hoogstra Active Member

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    Wow! Cool info
  9. kathyth

    kathyth Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I think my tortoises respond to me, only because I feed them. The use me
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  10. Greta16

    Greta16 Active Member

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    I asked this question a little while back. Now that I've had Hermie a few months it seems like she can hear me but sometimes chooses to ignore me. She definately feels vibrations.
  11. Beasty_Artemis

    Beasty_Artemis Active Member

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    I totally think Artemis stays out, and explores her table more if im standing around talking to her... im not sure if i could argue that she knows her name, but i think that she hears me and follows me and my voice around.
  12. JoesMum

    JoesMum Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Joe heard me and pursued me for food or to ram me or to mate with my foot... but never once in 47 years can I say he responded to his name.

    I doubt he knew he had a name.
  13. TiffytheTort

    TiffytheTort Member

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    Mine looks at me when I say 'Tiffy' 'Tiffany' or 'Tiff Tiff'
  14. ZEROPILOT

    ZEROPILOT Well-Known Member TFO Supporter Platinum Supporter

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    My wife and I have observed one strange thing.
    Our female named Julio, that we've had much longer than the rest will come out of her house, or pot or bush. Any time Kelly calls her name. Only Julio comes and this works almost every single time.
    So sounds. Vibrations. Whatever seem to become familiar to certain tortoises and I have to go adainst the grain on this matter and say that YES. I've seen what can only be described as a particular tortoise recognizing the sound of my wife's voice....And coming when being called.
    This may not be name recognition. But it is "person with food" recognition. And it is sound alone that is recognized it seems.(it could also be a keen sense of smell?)
    My other Redfoot all come out of hiding when I knock on the enclosure with a bowl.
  15. seanang168

    seanang168 Member 5 Year Member

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    During feeding time, if I called Girl Girl, my star tortoise will come out of her hide and looked for me.
  16. orv

    orv Member

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    Our sweet female CDT clearly responds to the sound of either my or my wife's voice, especially when hungry. No, she doesn't respond directly to her name, just the sound of our voices. Surprisingly, she does NOT respond to the voice of visitors, whether she's hungry or not. Whenever we enter her pen, she immediately comes over to see what's going on in her precious territory. When someone she doesn't recognize enters her area, they must be aware. . . she'll come on the run and begin to push or ram them . . . I believe she's communicating "get outta my yard". She doe treat me or my wife that way, she just comes over to see whats going on. She doesn't seem to crave attention, she just wants to see whats going on. Just out experie6, Orv
  17. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 5 Year Member Platinum Supporter

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    Hey, Orv - good to see you back on the Forum!
  18. leigti

    leigti Well-Known Member

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    If I could figure out how to download a video, I have one where I am feeding my tortoise a rose. She is contently attacking the rose and when I say her name she stops looks at me tilts her head then goes back to destroying the rose. I don't think she's responding to her name necessarily but definitely responding to my voice.
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