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Why does my Desert Tortoise bob his head?

Discussion in 'General Tortoise Discussion' started by Krisowen, Apr 13, 2013.

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  1. Krisowen

    Krisowen New Member

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    My guy will come up to our feet and just start bobbing his head at our toes. It is like he has a toe fetish. He never bites. It is like he is happy, making a friend. What do you all think?
  2. ascott

    ascott Well-Known Member

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    CDTs are a tenacious bunch...."normally" head bobbing is an assertive behavior...if he were facing a counterpart of his own species it is usually a dominance thing....if your tort is a male and is still young, he may just be trying out his skills incase the elusive 5 toe species attacks....lol

    and although he has not tasted toes "YET", he will :D
  3. Krisowen

    Krisowen New Member

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    Actually it is a she. She has a guys name so it feels natural to say he. I will have to watch my toes. She sleeps inside and goes outside for the day. She comes to the backdoor when she wants in. She also just started pushing our feet like she is trying to go through us when she is tired and wants to sleep. Well, I put her to bed when she does it and she instantly pushes up tight against something and goes to sleep. Is that normal?
  4. ascott

    ascott Well-Known Member

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    Yes...lol...absolutely normal, left--right--reverse, these are just not necessary in the mind of most torts...although they do them, "through" and "over" are the more popular choices to them...

    What do you offer as a place for a bed? Does she sleep directly on a cold floor or do you offer a bed/towel for her to sleep on?

    I have an old man CDT Humphry who lives here...he is a funny old gentleman, he use to live at a park that I use to work at...and my office had a door that led to a patio that I enclosed for him...he would knock on the door to come in as well as out as he desired...it was very fun.

    Then when I stopped working there he came to live here and when he is cruising the yard and front porch with me he will every so stop at the front door and really look at it (that is with his good eye) and give it a tap...(the office door and our front door are both white, don't know if he knows that or if it just looks the same shape and such, suppose I will never know for certain, huh).:p
  5. Krisowen

    Krisowen New Member

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    Oh how funny! OK, I will be honest. She likes to sit with me on the couch. I sit and she sleeps next to me under a blanket that I have draped over the couch's back. It forms a teepee area for her to sleep in. She pushes up against the couch under the blanket. When I go to bed, I kiss her on the nose and carry her to a small dog bed next to where I sleep. It is round with an attached top that acts like a blanket. I pull up the top of it and slide her in. LOL if I have to leave before she gets up I just pick up the bed with her in it and put it outside on the patio. I work from home so I am usually with her. She is so interactive with us. We even walk down the sidewalk to the neighbors house to eat weeds. She follows right behind me.
  6. CourtneyG

    CourtneyG Active Member

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    As far as I know it is a form of communication, both if mine do it.
  7. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member

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    This is a classic sign of tortoise aggression, dominance and territoriality. I am astounded that anyone would think of this as a "happy" or friendly gesture...
  8. Krisowen

    Krisowen New Member

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    That makes sense about it being how they communicate. That was what I was thinking. I also have a green cheek conjure bird that likes to walk the floor. She bobs her head at the bird too. I caught her snuggled up to my bird once sleeping. I think she just likes to snuggle and is looking for a friend. When my bird started to pace back and forth in front of her, my bird was peaking under a door, I could see the bite coming. I think she just wanted her to sit still. LOL
    She let go instantly when I yelled no and touched her head.

    She bobs all the time, never bites at our feet ever. She like to sit by our feet. She just bobs her head like she is having fun, no other aggression. They all must have different personalities. She slept all winter in my closet. It is pushing 90 here now so she is up. I am glad she made it though the first winter with me. I rescued her from a little old lady last fall who spoiled her. She was going into a assisted care facility and couldn't take her. I have not had her long. But she has a wonderful personality. A real sweetheart.
    [hr]
    Just to be clear, she stays outside all day long. We have a large yard that is completely secure for her. She just sleeps inside.
  9. tildatron

    tildatron New Member

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    Regarding tortoise aggression: Tilda engages in this behavior as well, and I have always taken it as a sign of aggression. She (or he) often does it around her food, but will do it at other times as well. Right now its not much of an issue, as she is only 5 inches. I have wondered if it will become a problem as she grows though.

    Is there anything that can help curb aggressive behavior in torts?
  10. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member

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    Nothing will make them stop. Its just their nature and hormones. The best thing is to just understand it and work around it.

    CDTs are famous for having these fierce, territorial, fearless personalities. Its one of their most endearing traits in my opinion.
  11. GeoTerraTestudo

    GeoTerraTestudo Active Member

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    Tortoises have true head-bobbing, as well as something else that people call "bobbing," but isn't.

    True head-bobbing occurs with the neck held straight out and the head extended. In male tortoises, true head-bobbing is a sign of either courtship or aggression. In females, it can only be aggression, since females do not court males.

    However, people often notice a tortoise's or box turtle's head going up and down while it's not fully extended. This is not bobbing, but merely breathing. The throat pouch inflates and deflates to move air in and out, and if the head is touching the plastron (bottom shell), this pumping can cause the head to move up and down. Tortoises and box turtles do this more when they are warm or active, because they are breathing more.

    If your female desert tortoise seems "friendly" while approaching you or sitting next to you with its head moving up and down, then it could be one of two things. If the neck is extended, then that is true head-bobbing, which is an aggressive display that you are misinterpreting as friendly. However, if the neck is not extended, then the animal is simply excited (perhaps because it expects food) and its breathing just gives the appearance of head-bobbing. In that case, maybe it really is eager to approach you. The fact that you say she does this while sitting next to you makes me suspect she's just breathing, because with true head-bobbing, the tortoise is usually charging toward another individual, and if that individual doesn't move, they tend to get rammed or bitten. You report no such follow-up behaviors, so I think she might just be excited while waiting to get fed. :)
  12. tortoise_man1

    tortoise_man1 New Member

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    Tortoises have true head-bobbing, as well as something else that people call "bobbing," but isn't.

    True head-bobbing occurs with the neck held straight out and the head extended. In male tortoises, true head-bobbing is a sign of either courtship or aggression. In females, it can only be aggression, since females do not court males.

    However, people often notice a tortoise's or box turtle's head going up and down while it's not fully extended. This is not bobbing, but merely breathing. The throat pouch inflates and deflates to move air in and out, and if the head is touching the plastron (bottom shell), this pumping can cause the head to move up and down. Tortoises and box turtles do this more when they are warm or active, because they are breathing more.



    Yes, well this may be true, my tortoise only does it when I am head level with her and she only bobs her head if I bob my head first :)
  13. GeoTerraTestudo

    GeoTerraTestudo Active Member

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    With her head in or out? If it's in, then she's probably just breathing.
  14. tildatron

    tildatron New Member

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    That was my impression. Since she is only head bobbing and 'arm flexing' and not displaying any other aggressive signs (no biting or rushing) I figure we'll just work it out.
  15. Krisowen

    Krisowen New Member

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    I do think that she is excited. It looks like she is trying to make friends or in love with our feet to be honest. She would have bitten if not and my toes are directly next to her mouth when she is sitting, sometimes touching her face. Her neck is relaxed, it looks like her version of a dance. Her head is about half way out and her neck is not stretched straight, it has a slight bend. Like she is trying to communicate with our toes. It is big up and down movements. She will purposely come up to our feet and then start moving her head up and down then she stops. If we respond by wiggling our toes up and down then she responds with more head movement. It goes back and forth like she is communicating with us. Maybe she is mimicking us.She also has just started pushing into us after she has been out running around a while and wants our attention. I am thinking it is because she is tired and wants us to carry her inside to bed. It is the same behavior she will do as she pushes up against something to sleep. Maybe it is like, be still so I can push against you and sleep. She does like to sleep near my feet on the couch so maybe she does it just to try to go to sleep but we keep moving. I have not come to a formal conclusion on it yet. She just started it, no biting though but I am hoping that is not aggression beginning.
  16. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member

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    Russians will sometimes bite their rivals. CDTs usually don't. Seldom do tortoises bite to show aggression. They show aggression with posture, position, chasing, ramming, flipping and HEAD BOBBING!

    Your warm fuzzy feelings are misguided in this case. Sorry.
  17. Krisowen

    Krisowen New Member

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    I will watch her closely more closely and see what conclusion I come to. I sure hope she is not staring to be aggressive. As long as she doesn't bite it is no big deal I guess. I can live with it. I like an animal with an attitude. LOL when she does it, she is not raised up. Her shell is sitting flat against the ground. Maybe I can take a video of it.
  18. pugsandkids

    pugsandkids New Member

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    As long as everyone keeps their toes intact I think a few warm and fuzzy feelings are okay ;)
    Learning tortoise body language and posturing is important to being a responsible keeper though.
  19. GeoTerraTestudo

    GeoTerraTestudo Active Member

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    It's either aggression or just simple breathing. Tortoises do not engage in mirror behavior (copying) like birds and mammals, and they don't communicate back and forth like lizards doing push-ups.

    As Tom said, try not to read too much into behavior (or too little). Tortoises don't play or bond with us like dogs and cats do. They either tolerate us or they don't. If they associate us with food, then they like having us around. But if they're being randy or if they feel crowded, then they can become aggressive. Either way, they're very interesting animals!
  20. ascott

    ascott Well-Known Member

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    Usually :D You will encounter a "freak" personality from time to time....

    Call it what we simple humans will, but from time to time we will find a rebel that simply does what feels good and has not read the "wild tortoise rule book"....

    Absolutely....:p

    We have a couple members on this very Forum that have a couple of these unique souls....so, get to know your tort and figure what works well for your torta as well as you.....if your tort has been spoiled "human" like..then it may certainly have normal tortoise behavior but has learned when to utilize its skills....lol..:D
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