How to tell if your turtle is male or female

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How to Tell If a Turtle Is Male or Female

Two Methods:

If you keep pet turtles, it's nice to know if you've got boys or girls. However, unlike many mammals, turtles have no external genitalia. This makes determining their sex much more difficult, but it's not impossible. The differences between male and female turtles can be subtle and are easier to spot if you have one turtle of each sex so that you can compare. If you only have one turtle, then look for as many clues as possible to try to determine the turtle's gender.


Examining the Turtle’s Shell

  1. Look at your turtle’s shell.The turtle’s shell, or carapace, differs slightly between male and female. An adult female turtle has a slightly longer shell than an adult male has.
    • As a means of sexing the turtle, this method is limited because you need to make sure that the turtle is fully grown. You may assume that a turtle is male due to a smaller size when it actually has more growing to do.
    • There can be an overlap in size between a large male and a small female, so it’s not possible to predict the gender based on size alone.
  2. Examine the turtle’s plastron.The underside of the shell, which covers the turtle equivalent of a belly, is called the plastron. To check the plastron, pick the turtle up with care. They do not like be handled and may try to bite, so grasp the turtle from the tail end so it can't reach around and snap at you. Gently turn the turtle over so you can see the underside. In male turtles, the plastron is slightly concave (curving inwards), whereas a female's is flat.
    • A concave plastron allows for a male turtle to fit over a female’s shell during mating without rolling off.
    • The female’s flatter plastron gives her more room internally in which to grow eggs.
  3. Check the turtle for a tail notch.Male turtles often have a small 'V,' or notch, at the rear end of the carapace. This is to accommodate the tail when the turtles mate. Otherwise the tail might be crushed against the underside of his shell.
  4. Look for species-specific clues.Some species of turtles have gender-specific external features. Some species that may reveal gender through coloring are:
    • The American box turtle: 90 percent of the time, male box turtles have red or orange irises while the female has brown or yellow ones. Also, the female has a tendency to have a higher-domed, more rounded shell, whereas the male has a lower shell with more of an oval or oblong appearance.
    • Sun turtle: If the turtle's underbelly has blue coloring, it's a male. If the underbelly does not have blue coloring, it's a female.

Checking for Details

  1. Examine the turtle’s claws.Male turtles use their claws during mating rituals with female turtles. They also use their claws to fight and to claim and defend their territory. Therefore, the claws on the males' front legs tend to be longer than the claws of female turtles. Again, this is more obvious when you have two turtles of different sexes to compare with each other.
    • The Red-eared Slider species particularly shows a pronounced difference between the male and female front claws.
  2. Look at the turtle’s cloaca.Both male and females have an opening or vent located on the underside on the tail. This is called the cloaca, and it is located slightly differently depending on the gender.
    • The female's cloaca is rounder and more star shaped than the male's. It is found much closer to her body, at the base of her tail where it joins her body, almost disappearing into the shell.
    • The male's cloaca is longer and more slit-like. It is located in the last third of the tail, towards the tip.
  3. Determine the turtle’s tail size.The male's genitalia are located within the tail, and to accommodate them, the tail is longer and thicker than a female’s. The female's tail is shorter and thinner.
    • Be aware that there is an overlap in normal sizes between male and female, so this can give you a hint, but it is not a foolproof way of sexing a turtle.
  4. Combine multiple signs to reach a conclusion.The best approach to sexing a turtle is using a combination of the suggested steps to come up with the most likely gender for the turtle. Bear in mind that some methods are less reliable than others in determining the gender of your turtle.
    • If all the signs point in one direction, then it's more likely than not that you've determined the gender accurately. However, if the signs are mixed, you may wish to take your turtle to a vet to be certain.
    • If you're not sure what conclusion to draw, wait until the turtle is older and try again. It is extremely difficult to sex a baby turtle.
    • Be aware that you might have to wait years until your turtle is fully grown and you can determine the gender effectively.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    What does the shell look like for a male and female?

    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Dr. Elliott is a Veterinarian who specializes in Companion Animal Medicine in England. She registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1987.
    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Expert Answer
    The appearance of the shell is more heavily influenced by external, environmental factors than by gender. For example, poor nutrition and lack of calcium may lead to "terracing" or ridges within individual scutes. However, there are no useful or consistent differences in the shell between the genders when it comes to telling male from female.
  • Question
    Does this apply to tortoises as well?

    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Dr. Elliott is a Veterinarian who specializes in Companion Animal Medicine in England. She registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1987.
    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Expert Answer
    Yes, most of the general gender differences described in this guide apply to tortoises as well. This includes the size differences, curve of the plastron, and tail length; however, tortoise tail notches can be subtly different such that the male has a more "V" shaped notch, whilst the female's is "U" shaped.
  • Question
    How old can turtles get?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Depends on the type of turtle. Certain turtles can live up to 85 years. Tortoises live up to 185 years if given proper care. Sea turtles live up to 165 years.
  • Question
    Will this technique apply to all turtle species, such as snapping turtle?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, it should. If you still cannot determine the gender of your turtle, you can always ask a specialist at a pet store or a fish tank store--or wherever you bought your turtle at.
  • Question
    Does a turtle's shell grow with it?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, since they are actually atatched to the turtle, unlike hermit crabs (who switch shells as they grow), their shell grows with them.
  • Question
    How do I figure out what species my turtle is so I can try to determine its sex?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can try searching the internet; just put your turtles' characteristics and maybe you will find an answer browsing through images of the turtle (flip to the image search after adding in the characteristics). If not, have a friend or family member who is experienced with turtles visit to help you. You could also take a photo of your turtle and visit/email a pet store or a university biology department and ask them to identify the species for you.
  • Question
    Can I use this method on small turtles?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You should be able to, though certain things you may not be physically able to see depending on its size.
  • Question
    Do Red Eared Sliders turtle eggs hatch without male turtles?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Female RES turtles can and often will carry eggs even without contact from a male. The eggs will be infertile (there is no baby turtle inside) but she will still need a place to lay them. You can tell if your RES is carrying eggs by very gently running your finger in the area in front of her rear legs. She will also be attempting to prepare a nesting site by digging if she has sand or soil in her habitat and will become restless.
  • Question
    How can I determine my turtle's sex?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Examine all the signs mentioned in the article; if the majority of them point to a male, it is most likely a male. But take it to a vet or your local pet store where you bought it and ask them to confirm.
  • Question
    Do male turtles dominate the females when in the same habitat?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Generally, if there are social problems between turtles it is a larger turtle bullying a smaller one. However, male turtles are more aggressive than females. Because females are usually larger than male turtles of the same age, the males won't often be aggressive towards them unless it is mating season. If the male starts to bite or bully her, the female can become hostile towards him in serious ways.
Unanswered Questions
  • When counting lines on a turtle shell, do I have to count each line in each square or just one square of lines?
  • How can I tell the sex of a snapping turtle?
  • How do I identify what sort of turtle and tortoise I have?
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  • It may help to look at a diagram of the vent on a turtle's tail in a picture. One great book for doing this isTurtles and Tortoises-A Complete Owner's Manualby Bartlett and Bartlett.
  • There are some variations of sea turtles (specifically, the Kemp Ridley, but there may be others) that have no external signs of which gender they are. Speak with a veterinarian specializing in marine animals to discover which gender your sea turtle is.


  • Wash your handsevery single timeyou handle a turtle. Some turtles carry salmonella and, while it won't harm the turtle, it can harm you.Do not put unwashed hands near your mouth or nose until you've washed them with warm water and soap. Make sure children do so after handling turtles too.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Maders. Saunders
  2. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Maders. Saunders
  3. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Maders. Saunders
  4. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Maders. Saunders
  5. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Maders. Saunders
  6. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Maders. Saunders
  7. All Turtles, Turtle FAQs,

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Expert Review By:
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

of How to Tell If a Turtle Is Male or Female was reviewed by on July 17, 2019.

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Angelina Duggan

Sep 30

"Using this site, I was able to determine the sexes of my friend's two turtles!"

DrSaad Shams

May 26

"Difference between male and female helped."

Anonymous .

May 24

"I successfully captured a turtle in my backyard, and was clueless when it came to finding the gender until I readthis article, and now I know that I have a nice, healthy female turtle which I have named Scarlett. This article was really helpful."
Rated this article:

Michael B. Stewart

Dec 5, 2019

"Taking each step with vivid pictures explained thoroughly by text. Also, using comparison between the box turtleand the sun or painted turtle. Advice for turtle husbandry emphasizing very important features to maintain a turtle's health and well-being."

Renee B.

Jul 25, 2019

"We rescued a male snapping turtle around this time of year. He is great. His name is Mr Bently. Now today werescued a female snapping turtle same time of year. It's pretty cool, we weren't looking for turtles, just happen to run into them."

Emilio Campos

Jul 16, 2019

"Now I know how to do it. It seems much more fun to know to handle my turtle, and I know much more than I did. WhenI first got my turtle I didn't know how to handle it. Thank you so much. "


Jul 17, 2019

"By a lake we are at there is a snapping turtle, and the family wanted to know what gender the turtle was. Not onlydid this article help us today, but it will also help in the future."

Joanna Hernandez

Apr 18, 2019

"I've had my turtle almost 10 years, and didn't know if it was male or female. Reading this article helped me findout my turtle is a male. Pretty easy steps to follow."


Mar 14

"My turtle has reddish-brown eyes. I checked the shape of her shell, her cloaca, and her coloring to verify thatshe is a female."

Lin Kisslinger

Jul 15, 2019

"We have had several turtles go through our yard lately, and now I can pick them up and determine which sex likesour yard best."

B. G.

Jul 8, 2019

"Helping my sister-in-law figure out whether she has a male or female yellow bellied turtle. Looks like we have agirl! "

Rose Crandall

May 2, 2019

"I found a turtle outside and I wanted to know if it was a male or a female. I am not too sure yet. This shouldhelp. "

Tina Greenwood

Jul 9, 2019

"This helped me more than any other site I have looked at to determine if I have female or male turtles! Thank you!!"


Jun 17, 2019

"You really taught me how to identify the gender of my Malayan snail-eating turtle. Now I named her Truffles."


Jul 26, 2019

"Thank you wikiHow for helping. Checking shells was the first thing I did when I got my turtles!"

Michelle Aw

Sep 27, 2019

"Now I know the difference of the sex. This article is very informative and useful. Many thanks."


Jun 17, 2019

"I thought the only way you could determine their sex was by the tail, but I guess I was wrong."

Jo Dewey

Oct 10, 2019

"Helped me determine that my turtle is a male. Thank you for the detailed information."

Kacper Wierzbicki

May 2, 2019

"It helped me find out if my turtle, named Turbo, is a girl or boy, and it is a boy."
Rated this article:


May 18, 2019

"The reason this helped is because I could not tell if my turtle was a boy or girl."

Zoey Atkson

May 26, 2019

"It helped me discover that my family's turtle is a boy. Thank you for your help!"
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Oct 2, 2019

"I find wikiHow very useful, and this article was also, as always, very helpful."

John Dibattista

Aug 13, 2019

"This was the best simple overview I've had so far in my education of turtles."


Nov 23, 2019

"Learned that if the turtle shell is long, it's a male, and if small, female."

Sierra Lewis

Jun 19, 2019

"This website was very useful and helped me add a new member to the family."


Aug 15, 2019

"Descriptions and pictures on how to tell the sex of my turtle helped."


Jun 19, 2019

"The detailed characteristics like tail size and shell shapes helped."

Napalm Nubbins

Sep 3, 2019

"The concave on the turtles plastron helped a lot! Vangogh is a boy!"

Tash Brown

Jul 3, 2019

"Very informative. Loved the short and right-to-the-point answers."

Jose Emery

Jul 6, 2019

"This helped me tell if my turtle was male of female.

Video: How To Tell If Your Turtle Has Eggs

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Date: 12.12.2018, 21:22 / Views: 92243