How To Tell The Gender Of A Box Turtle?

How To Tell The Gender Of A Box Turtle

If you are planning to house more than one box turtle, it is better to know the sex of each box turtle. Why? It is because the male box turtles can involve in a fight with each other, or they can behave aggressively with the female ones if they want to mate.

To determine the gender of the box turtle, you have to observe its size, shell, claws, and tail. Color of certain body parts, shape of the carapace and plastron, etc. also shows the sex of a box turtle.

Determining the gender of a box turtle can be challenging if you haven’t bought it from a shop. If you have hatched the box turtles in an incubator, then remember that the temperature of the incubator determines whether the embryo will be male or female.

If you are new or do not have any idea how to determine the gender of the box turtle, then do not worry. In this article, I will show you how you can evaluate your box turtle’s gender by observation. So read the article till the end.

Determine The Gender Of A Box Turtle

You can determine your box turtle gender once it gets sexually matured. It does not mean that you can not tell a baby box turtle’s gender, but it may not be accurate. So, I will enlist some points here, which will help you to determine the sex of your box turtle.

Using Size

For most of the box turtle subspecies, male box turtles are larger than the female box turtles at the same age. But this can not be an ideal characteristic to determine the box turtles gender because, at a young age, female box turtles can be longer than the male ones. Moreover, for some subspecies, like ornate box turtles, and Western box turtles, the female box turtles are larger than the male ones at the same age.

Using The Shape And Size Of The Shell

The shape and size of the box turtle’s shell can slightly vary from male to female. An adult female box turtle’s shell or overall carapace is longer than an adult male box turtle. It is because a longer shell can hold the eggs inside.

Like the size method, this method has some limitations too. The turtle owner has to make sure that the box turtles are fully grown. Again, if the owner does not have any idea about the age of the box turtle, he can overlap the size between an adult male box turtle and a young female box turtle, or vice versa.

Observing The Rear Edge Of The Carapace

The top shell or the rear edge of a box turtle’s carapace also holds a clue for the turtle’s gender. 

  • The rear edge of the carapace of an adult male box flares outward.
  • The rear edge of the carapace of an adult female box turtle is flat. It does not flare outward. 

Unlike the above two methods, it is a reliable characteristic. So it is easy to determine the pet box turtle’s gender, once you know where to look.

 Observing The Plastron

male vs female box turtle plastron

The plastron is the underside of the shell that covers the equivalent of its belly. This indicator can help a pet owner to reveal the box turtle’s gender. 

  • A male box turtle has a concave dip in its plastron. This slope helps the male box turtle during reproduction. It allows the male box turtle to fit over the female one’s shell while mating. 
  • A female box turtle has a flat plastron. This flatter plastron allows the box turtle to grow more eggs inside it.

You may observe a dip or concavity in some female box turtles. It is not rare. So, you should not rely on this observation. 

Observing Tails 

Determining the box turtle’s gender by comparing tails is the most common method. 

  • An adult male box turtle has a thick and long tail. Also, it owns a ‘V’ shaped notch at the rear end of its carapace, which helps the male box turtle during the mating process.
  • An adult female box turtle has a skinny and short tail. You will not observe any notch at its rear end of the carapace.

Moreover, the male box turtle’s cloaca is positioned closer to the end of the tail by comparing it to a female box turtle. Determining the box turtle’s gender by observing its tail is more useful than other methods, but it will work only when you have other box turtles to make the comparison.

Eye Color

male box turtle eye
male box turtle eye

Determining a box turtle’s gender by observing its eye color is one of the most known methods. Many people depend on this specific technique to find out their box turtle’s gender. It has been known that a male box turtle has more bright and colorful eyes than a female box turtle.

A male box turtle tends to have red, orange, and pink eyes while a female box turtle tends to have dark brown eyes. It does not mean that no female box turtle has colorful eyes. It surely does, but the color will be darker than the male one. So, a male box turtle will have bright red eyes where the female box turtle will have dark red eyes.

There can be an exception for some subspecies. Take Florida box turtle as an example. This subspecies does not show a difference in their eye color.

Color Of The Head

male box turtle head
male box turtle head

Just like the eyes, a male box turtle tends to have colorful heads too. Most of the box turtles have a yellowish or greenish head. Some of them may have dark red heads also. But when it comes to the female box turtles, almost all of them have a dark brown head.

Examining The Claws

male box turtle claw
male box turtle claw

You can determine a box turtle’s gender by examining its claw. You have to compare the size of the nails to find out the pet’s gender. 

  • Generally, a male box turtle has longer claws on their front feet. The male box turtles use their long claws to grab the female box turtles’ upper shell during mating. They also use these while fighting or defending their territory. The rear claws of the male box turtles are short, thin, and curved.
  • The front feet claws of a female box turtle are short and stubby. But their hind claws are long and thicker. These long and thick claws help them to dig nests while laying eggs. 

Observing The Cloaca

male vs female box turtle cloaca

Cloaca is the vent located on the underside of the box turtle’s tail. This can help to determine a box turtle’s gender.

  • The cloaca of a male box turtle is longer and slit-shaped. 
  • The cloaca of a female box turtle is round and star-shaped. 

There is one more thing that can help you to determine the box turtle’s gender. If you ever notice your box turtle fanning, then it is a male box turtle for sure. It displays the box turtle’s penis in wet grass or water. The organ looks like a dark flower. 

These are the basic things you need to know if you want to determine the gender of your box turtle. You can specify the sex of any box turtle if you follow the rules correctly. But remember one thing; these characteristics are not perfect for all the subspecies. Some aspects can vary from subspecies to subspecies.

Again, you can not come to any conclusion without comparing three or four characteristics. Concluding the decision by observing one aspect may not give the right answer. And also, these characteristics will be useful only when you have more than one box turtle to make the comparisons.

How To Tell The Gender Of An Eastern Box Turtle

By now, I am sure you know the essential characteristics to determine the gender of a box turtle. But the features can vary from one subspecies to another. Eastern box turtle is the most popular box turtle subspecies, and some of its characteristics can be different from others. Let’s find out.

  • Face and forelegs color – Female eastern box turtles have dull or dark yellow or brown color on their heads and forelegs. Male eastern box turtles have bright yellow and orange spots on their heads and forelegs.
  • Color of the eyes– The male and female eastern box turtles have specific eye colors. An eastern male box turtle has bright red eyes, where a female eastern box turtle is generally seen with dark brown eyes.
  • Rear claws– Male eastern box turtles have thicker and more curved hind or read claws than the female ones. 
  • Upper shell – The top shell or carapace of the male eastern box turtle is thin and flat. On the other hand, it is round and domed for the female eastern box turtles.
  • Concavity of plastron – The male eastern box turtles have an indention on the edge of their plastron. It helps them to gain stability while mounting on the female box turtles during the mating process. The female eastern box turtles do not have any indention on their plastron. 
  • Marginal scutes – These scutes can be seen on the outer side of the carapace. The marginal scutes of the male eastern box turtles flare outward more than the female ones.
  • Tail – The male eastern box turtle has a longer and thicker tail than a female one. You can look up for the vent position too. A female eastern box turtle’s vent resides above the edge of the carapace. And for a male eastern box turtle, its vent resides below the edge of the carapace.

How To Tell The Gender Of A Baby Box Turtle

It is difficult to determine the gender of a baby box turtle. Why? Because it is not sexually matured, and all the characteristics we have learned may not apply to it. But some of them will still work. 

  • Fingernails – The male baby box turtle’s front claws will be longer and more curved than the female ones. And the female’s hind claws will be thinner.
  • Shell – The upper shell of the male baby box turtle will be flatter. On the other hand, the top shell will be round for the baby female box turtles. The plastron will be concaved for the male babies, and flat for the female babies.
  • Tail – As the male baby box turtles have their penis in their tails, it will be long and thick. If you can see the tail tips when your baby box turtle extends its tail, then it is female. A female baby box turtle’s tail is short and thin.

How To Tell The Gender Of A Malayan Box Turtle

Follow the comparisons I have discussed above to specify your Malayan box turtle’s gender. But as I have said earlier, the characteristics can vary slightly from one subspecies to another.

So, here I am drawing a comparison table between a Malayan male and female box turtle.

Malayan male box turtlesMalayan female box turtles
The Malayan male box turtle has a slight concavity in its plastron.The female Malayan box turtle has a flat plastron.
Its tail is long and thick.Its tail is thin and stubby.
The male Malayan box turtles have fewer black spots on its plastron.The female Malayan box turtle’s plastron has many dark spots on it.

How To Tell The Gender Of An Ornate Box Turtle

To determine the gender of your ornate box turtle, follow the rules I have mentioned above. But for this subspecies, some characteristics can be slightly different from the other subspecies. 

  1. We have learned that for most subspecies, the male box turtles are bigger than the female box turtles at the same age. But for ornate box turtles, the male and female box turtles do not have many differences. And the female box turtles are slightly bigger than the male box turtles at the same age.
  2. A male ornate box turtle has a large and curved inner claw on their rear foot. 
  3. The cloaca opening of the male ornate box turtles is positioned further back than the female ornate box turtles.
  4. The tail of an ornate male box is thicker and more powerful than a female one.
  5. You can observe red spots on the male ornate box turtle’s legs and jaws.

The male ornate box turtles acquire sexual maturity when their plastron gets 10 to 11 centimeters in length, which takes almost 8 to 9 years. On the other hand, a female ornate box turtle becomes sexually mature at the age of 10 to 11 years. At that age, their plastron is 11 to 13 centimeters long.

How To Tell The Gender Of A Three-Toed Box Turtle

You can identify the gender of your three-toed box turtle by comparing the characteristics I have mentioned above. But here are some other tips that would help you to determine the gender for this specific box turtle.

  1. The male three-toed box turtles will have colorful markings on their head and neck. You may observe yellow, orange, or red spots as an indicator.
  2. The male three-toed box turtles have concaved lower shell. It helps them to mount the female three-toed box turtles during mating.
  3. The female three-toed box turtles have a flatter lower shell. 

How To Tell The Gender Of A Florida Box Turtle

You can identify your box Florida box turtle’s gender by following the characteristics I have stated. Here I am giving some extra tips that will work only for this subspecies.

  • A male Florida box turtle tends to have bright orange or red eyes. A female Florida box turtle naturally has dark red or brown eyes.
  • The male Florida box turtle’s tail is thicker than the female ones.
  • The plastron of the male Florida box turtle is indented and concaved. On the other hand, a female Florida box turtle has a flat plastron. 

How To Tell The Gender Of A Gulf Coast Box Turtle

Determining the gender of a gulf coast box turtle is challenging because both the gender look very similar. But there are some slight differences between a male and female gulf coast box turtle.

  • The male gulf coast box turtle has a red iris, and the female gulf coast turtle does not have it.
  • The male gulf coast box turtle’s tail is longer and thicker than the female one if you compare by its length and girth.
  • The female gulf coast box turtles have a flat plastron, while the male ones have a concaved plastron, which helps them to mount the female box turtles.

How To Tell The Gender Of A Mexican Box Turtle

There are not many tips available to determine the gender of a Mexican box turtle. I mean, you can identify or compare by the color, size, or other characteristics I have stated above, but there is no particular thing to mention. 

Looking at the bottom shell or the carapace can help you. The male Mexican box turtles have curves or indention on their bottom shell that allows them while mating with the female box turtles. On the other hand, the female box turtles have flat carapace.

How To Tell The Gender Of A Yucatan Box Turtle

You can easily identify the gender of a Yucatan box turtle. There is a huge difference in pigmentation between the male and female Yucatan box turtles. The male Yucatan box turtles are more colorful, and they have color spots all over their skins. On the other hand, the female Yucatan box turtles are colorful in a totally different way.

You can also observe its bottom shell to find out its gender. A male Yucatan box turtle has a concave bottom shell, and the female Yucatan box turtle has a flat carapace or bottom part.

How To Tell The Gender Of A Desert Box Turtle

Desert box turtles have specific characteristics for the male and female ones. A male desert box turtle has red eyes. They have one back toe that can be turned into an inward position. And the tail of a male desert box turtle is thicker and longer than the female ones.

The female desert box turtles have red eyes. Their hind claws are longer. Their tails are thinner and shorter than the male ones.

I think my discussion has included most of the popular box turtle subspecies. I am sure, by now, many of you have learned how to identify the gender of your box turtle. Let’s clear some more confusion or questions I often hear.

Why Do We Need To Identify The Gender Of The Box Turtle?

Box turtles tend to live alone and do not prefer companions. So when you house multiple box turtles in a single enclosure, you will notice fights and aggression. 

Male box turtles act aggressively towards the young and female box turtles, and even with each other. So, in that case, you have to separate the female box turtles from the male ones to save their lives. 

If you want to breed the box turtles, you have to find a good pair of male and female box turtles. If you do not have any idea about gender, you can not find the perfect pair for breeding.

Which Method Is More Useful To Determine The Box Turtle’s Gender?

I have discussed many characteristics by which you can identify the gender of your box turtle. Remember that none of the rules can conclude your box turtle’s gender alone. You have to compare at least three to four characteristics to come to a decision.

Conclusion

In this whole article, I have discussed almost everything you need to know to identify your box turtle’s gender. Many scientists and vets approve these characteristics. If you do not want to go through any trouble, take your box turtle to the vet or any specialist. 

I hope you have to find the article helpful. If I have skipped any point, do not forget to notify me.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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