Can bullying still exist when 3 RF tortoises are kept together?

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
Is bullying still prevalent when 3 or more RF tortoises are kept together in an enclosure? I heard all the arguments of not to keep 2 tortoises, can having 3 or more tortoises mitigate the problem by providing a sufficient enclosure size & females to male ratio?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Is bullying still prevalent when 3 or more RF tortoises are kept together in an enclosure? I heard all the arguments of not to keep 2 tortoises, can having 3 or more tortoises mitigate the problem by providing a sufficient enclosure size & females to male ratio?
Yes. It can happen any time there is more than one tortoise in an enclosure. It is very likely to happen with only two. Less likely with three or more, but still possible.
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
Thank you, what are the usual signs of subtle & aggressive bullying behaviors. Is facing off, nibbling on another's limbs, climbing over the other or sniffing the other are indications? What about signs of getting along & tolerance? Is eating together, sharing the same hides & one following the other good?
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Thank you, what are the usual signs of subtle & aggressive bullying behaviors. Is facing off, nibbling on another's limbs, climbing over the other or sniffing the other are indications? What about signs of getting along & tolerance? Is eating together, sharing the same hides & one following the other good?
Everything you listed are signs of bullying.
If they sniff and move on, share a hide but without jamming the others, eat from the same plate without trying to take over the whole plate, etc then they are likely good.
In a group you possibly will always see some bullying/fighting but it should be short lived if they have the proper amount of space and being in a group, not just one will be picked on.
 
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jsheffield

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Location (City and/or State)
Westmoreland, NH
I have three Russian females living in the same enclosure, but I keep a close eye on them, both behaviorally and physically, to make sure their relationships are friendly, or at least disinterested... mostly they ignore each other.

The one that I consider the alpha among their threesome is sometimes a bit assertive when her favorite food items come into play, but I feed in multiple spots and things have worked, so far.

I think the key is having the capacity to split them up if need be.

Jamie
 

ZEROPILOT

REDFOOT WRANGLER
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Location (City and/or State)
South Eastern Florida (U.S.A.)/Rock Hill S.C.
It's actually a little more complicated than that.
3 or more Redfoot CAN work if there is no more than one male and there is ample room. I'm talking about several hundred square feet of room.
I've had a few RF over the years that absolutely would not settle down and stop bullying no matter what.
So there is no magic number, except that having MANY individuals in a very large area can spread it out. But the results are not guaranteed.
You may still have to remove a tortoise.
Bullying in Redfoot usually is on the subtle side:
°Following each other
°Sleeping together
°Eating together
°Mounting by males or females
None of this is normal behavior. Even though some of it might even sound like they "like" each other.
They don't.
This bullying may not always leave scars or injuries to the outside of the animals. But it is all terrible for their well being.
In nature. The bullied animal can just walk away and out of that tortoises territory.
In captivity they can not.
I try to never say simply that 3 or more work. That's not true.
3 or more CAN work.
But not always.
My group of 6 live harmoniously.
They are all female (and/or immature males) and they are in a pretty large outdoors enclosure. This group took years to assemble. And may require separation in the near future. They have multiple hides and the food is scattered throughout the enclosure daily.
This is far different from someone wanting to keep 3 in a cramped indoor enclosure.
Redfoot are pretty calm in general. But there are always exceptions.
And keeping multiple tortoises for our own amusement in an enclosure that isn't large enough should be highly discouraged
 
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Toddrickfl1

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Location (City and/or State)
Ga
It's actually a little more complicated than that.
3 or more Redfoot CAN work if there is no more than one male and there is ample room. I'm talking about several hundred square feet of room.
I've had a few RF over the years that absolutely would not settle down and stop bullying no matter what.
So there is no magic number, except that having MANY individuals in a very large area can spread it out. But the results are not guaranteed.
You may still have to remove a tortoise.
Bullying in Redfoot usually is on the subtle side:
°Following each other
°Sleeping together
°Eating together
°Mounting by males or females
None of this is normal behavior. Even though some of it might even sound like they "like" each other.
They don't.
This bullying may not always leave scars or injuries to the outside of the animals. But it is all terrible for their well being.
In nature. The bullied animal can just walk away and out of that tortoises territory.
In captivity they can not.
I try to never say simply that 3 or more work. That's not true.
3 or more CAN work.
But not always.
My group of 6 live harmoniously.
They are all female (and/or immature males) and they are in a pretty large outdoors enclosure. This group took years to assemble. And may require separation in the near future. They have multiple hides and the food is scattered throughout the enclosure daily.
This is far different from someone wanting to keep 3 in a cramped indoor enclosure.
Redfoot are pretty calm in general. But there are always exceptions.
And keeping multiple tortoises for our own amusement in an enclosure that isn't large enough should be highly discouraged
This comment needs to be it's own thread pinned at the top of the redfoot section 👍
 

Chubbs the tegu

Well-Known Member
Location (City and/or State)
Ma
It's actually a little more complicated than that.
3 or more Redfoot CAN work if there is no more than one male and there is ample room. I'm talking about several hundred square feet of room.
I've had a few RF over the years that absolutely would not settle down and stop bullying no matter what.
So there is no magic number, except that having MANY individuals in a very large area can spread it out. But the results are not guaranteed.
You may still have to remove a tortoise.
Bullying in Redfoot usually is on the subtle side:
°Following each other
°Sleeping together
°Eating together
°Mounting by males or females
None of this is normal behavior. Even though some of it might even sound like they "like" each other.
They don't.
This bullying may not always leave scars or injuries to the outside of the animals. But it is all terrible for their well being.
In nature. The bullied animal can just walk away and out of that tortoises territory.
In captivity they can not.
I try to never say simply that 3 or more work. That's not true.
3 or more CAN work.
But not always.
My group of 6 live harmoniously.
They are all female (and/or immature males) and they are in a pretty large outdoors enclosure. This group took years to assemble. And may require separation in the near future. They have multiple hides and the food is scattered throughout the enclosure daily.
This is far different from someone wanting to keep 3 in a cramped indoor enclosure.
Redfoot are pretty calm in general. But there are always exceptions.
And keeping multiple tortoises for our own amusement in an enclosure that isn't large enough should be highly discouraged
Very well said
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
I have three Russian females living in the same enclosure, but I keep a close eye on them, both behaviorally and physically, to make sure their relationships are friendly, or at least disinterested... mostly they ignore each other.

The one that I consider the alpha among their threesome is sometimes a bit assertive when her favorite food items come into play, but I feed in multiple spots and things have worked, so far.

I think the key is having the capacity to split them up if need be.

Jamie
I totally agree, I too in a similar situation "but one is suspected to be a male the aggressor" must keep close observation of them at all times & separate them from time to time to keep the peace. I heard red footed tortoises & possibly 2 other species of tortoises can cohabitate well in a communal setting, your Russians being all females probably can co-exist together well. I had one RF for over a year & when she first arrived she hardly ate or moved much, but when several were kept together they started eating much sooner even as new arrivals by learning from each other.
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
This comment needs to be it's own thread pinned at the top of the redfoot section 👍
You are absolutely right, we usually risk not knowing the sex of the tortoises at an early age & mistakenly keep more than one male "who are usually the aggressors" in the same group, more male to female ratio is always a problem for most animals. I guess this is why breeders will intentionally try to incubate their eggs to be predominantly females....
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
It's actually a little more complicated than that.
3 or more Redfoot CAN work if there is no more than one male and there is ample room. I'm talking about several hundred square feet of room.
I've had a few RF over the years that absolutely would not settle down and stop bullying no matter what.
So there is no magic number, except that having MANY individuals in a very large area can spread it out. But the results are not guaranteed.
You may still have to remove a tortoise.
Bullying in Redfoot usually is on the subtle side:
°Following each other
°Sleeping together
°Eating together
°Mounting by males or females
None of this is normal behavior. Even though some of it might even sound like they "like" each other.
They don't.
This bullying may not always leave scars or injuries to the outside of the animals. But it is all terrible for their well being.
In nature. The bullied animal can just walk away and out of that tortoises territory.
In captivity they can not.
I try to never say simply that 3 or more work. That's not true.
3 or more CAN work.
But not always.
My group of 6 live harmoniously.
They are all female (and/or immature males) and they are in a pretty large outdoors enclosure. This group took years to assemble. And may require separation in the near future. They have multiple hides and the food is scattered throughout the enclosure daily.
This is far different from someone wanting to keep 3 in a cramped indoor enclosure.
Redfoot are pretty calm in general. But there are always exceptions.
And keeping multiple tortoises for our own amusement in an enclosure that isn't large enough should be highly discouraged
Thank you, this is precisely the knowledge we need from experienced members like yourselves in this forum. Yes we shouldn't try to force tortoises to cohabitate together if we can't provide them sufficient living space, people are often mislead by watching YouTube videos of keepers having large numbers of tortoises together & all pleasantly happy going about their businesses.
 

k8tburt

New Member
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa
With regards to the subtle eating together sleeping together type bullying, is there anyway to tell who is the bully and who is the victim? Or is it that they are both trying in to intimidate each other and neither is at an advantage? Just trying to understand more in case I see this behavior. Thank you!
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
With regards to the subtle eating together sleeping together type bullying, is there anyway to tell who is the bully and who is the victim? Or is it that they are both trying in to intimidate each other and neither is at an advantage? Just trying to understand more in case I see this behavior. Thank you!
Experienced keepers often described the bullying by the aggressive tortoise as subtle & I don't think any human fully understands the psychology of them because they can't communicate directly with us, only from what we can observe of their behaviors like the aggressors with stare down the victim, push them, climb over them, take food away from them, bite their heads or limbs etc...& experienced keepers also say the bullied victims will experience weight lose, look emaciated, trying to escape the enclosure when around the aggressors & probably many other not so obvious signs. I have personally witnessed 2 of my RF's stare at each other with head movements & get into each other's faces even an indication of one possibly attempting to bite the other which doesn't actually happened. If any overt aggression towards another tortoise is observed you should intervene & immediately separate him or her from the others or between the 2, keeping only a pair is not advised unanimously from experienced keepers even 3 isn't guaranteed harmony. There will probably always be a dominant one amount several cohabitating together, the aggressor could be targeting just one specific tortoise & not the rest.
 

Yossarian

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Location (City and/or State)
Wales
With regards to the subtle eating together sleeping together type bullying, is there anyway to tell who is the bully and who is the victim? Or is it that they are both trying in to intimidate each other and neither is at an advantage? Just trying to understand more in case I see this behavior. Thank you!


The problem isnt that one tort always bullys the other, though this does happen. It is a stress inducing situation for both. Even the dominant tort is constantly stressed by the intruder that it just cant seem to get rid of. Bullying behaviors are detrimental to both animals. Many times if the torts are similar size and temperament, they will bully each other equally if no hierarchy has been established. Normally if there is a hierarchy, you will see the dominant tort doing dominant things to the other tort, like mounting the other (this can be as subtle as just putting its foot on top of the other tort), they will also circle, follow, ram, sit on top of food, etc. . . .
 
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willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
The problem isnt that one tort always bullys the other, though this does happen. It is a stress inducing situation for both. Even the dominant tort is constantly stressed by the intruder that it just cant seem to get rid of. Bullying behaviors are detrimental to both animals. Many times if the torts are similar size and temperament, they will bully each other equally if no hierarchy has been established. Normally if there is a hierarchy, you will see the dominant tort doing dominant things to the other tort, like mounting the other (this can be as subtle as just putting its foot on top of the other tort), they will also circle, follow, ram, sit on top of food, etc. . . .
That's very true, the matter is worsen when the torts can't avoid or get away from each other. Yes I very much agree people shouldn't consider keeping more than one tortoise if they don't have the resources to provide sufficient space to accommodate them, long term stress will compromise their health & they'll be susceptible of getting sick. I have 3 RF tortoises & they all get to go outdoors at least 4 times weekly for an hour or more & are always kept separated from each other up to several hours in a day away from the enclosure, fed separately & even given it's own hides but still were raised together. I don't believe there's one particularly dominant tort in my group but 2 of the 3 would stare at each other & move their heads side to side, they're both of different sizes & except for one can be determined of being female the others aren't, first time & inexperienced tortoises & turtle pet owners are deceived by the pet shops with keeping a large numbers of them in a display enclosure.
 

ZEROPILOT

REDFOOT WRANGLER
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Location (City and/or State)
South Eastern Florida (U.S.A.)/Rock Hill S.C.
Thank you, this is precisely the knowledge we need from experienced members like yourselves in this forum. Yes we shouldn't try to force tortoises to cohabitate together if we can't provide them sufficient living space, people are often mislead by watching YouTube videos of keepers having large numbers of tortoises together & all pleasantly happy going about their businesses.
Maybe you've seen a CAMP KEENAN video about Redfoot?
He is nearby in south Florida. The enclosure isn't super large. But he has DOZENS of Redfoot all jammed together. In this set-up it would be virtually impossible for any one tortoise to be continually bullied by any other individual.
But that scenario is also far from ideal.
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
For most of the time my 3 RF's of 2 babies & 1 yearling living in the same enclosure just ignores each other & not follow one another around, except once in a while will one would have sudden interest of another & starts looking intently. Is this considered a form of subtle bullying or it's just curiosity of one another? The larger yearling gets taken out of the enclosure several times to be by herself for a few hours & the babies has even less interest of one anther, as I work from home & often observe their behaviors except at night when all of them are at sleep in separate hides & doesn't move until the next morning. Is it safe to assume my larger tort is a female at this point? I had her/him as a baby for 13 months to present....
 

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ZEROPILOT

REDFOOT WRANGLER
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Location (City and/or State)
South Eastern Florida (U.S.A.)/Rock Hill S.C.
They all look female right up until the day you find out you've got a male.
And you're correct that very young RF seem to be less territorial than older ones.
I fully expect that at least 2 of mine will turn out to be male. And at that time, I'll be looking for new forever homes for them.
Always have a backup plan in case you need to separate a tortoise.
I have a 350sf open topped enclosure just there for an unruly tortoise from my collection or in case someone gives me more and they need to isolate and be inspected.
It's currently unoccupied.
But trying this indoors would have it's challenges.
You can easily see how different it can be for keeping them outside vs keeping them inside.
 

willee638

Active Member
Location (City and/or State)
HK
They all look female right up until the day you find out you've got a male.
And you're correct that very young RF seem to be less territorial than older ones.
I fully expect that at least 2 of mine will turn out to be male. And at that time, I'll be looking for new forever homes for them.
Always have a backup plan in case you need to separate a tortoise.
I have a 350sf open topped enclosure just there for an unruly tortoise from my collection or in case someone gives me more and they need to isolate and be inspected.
It's currently unoccupied.
But trying this indoors would have it's challenges.
You can easily see how different it can be for keeping them outside vs keeping them inside.
Wow, 350 square feet even Kamp Kenan would be proud of. On his YouTube channel in a Q&A question by a subscriber his answer was you should absolutely get your pet tortoise a friend/companion which is the opposite to every advice given here not to, he even justifies it by saying he never had any problems before.
 
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