She has survived two world wars, six different monarchs and 21 US Presidents.
Tommy the female Hermann’s tortoise, owned by Sheila Floris from Guildford, Surrey, has celebrated her 121st birthday and with it has become the world’s oldest living pet.
Born in 1898, Tommy has been in Sheila’s family since 1909 when her grandmother Margaret Cloonan bought her for £1 – when the tortoise was already 11-years-old.
Tommy has lived with Sheila, 62, since she was a child, and the property developer claims to have never once taken her to the vet, and that her faithful tortoise is still in perfect health despite her age.
What is a Hermann’s tortoise?
Hermann’s tortoises are the most popular tortoises to be kept as pets, and rarely grow larger than 18 cm
They are part of a group of tortoises referred to as ‘Mediterranean tortoises’
Hermann’s tortoises live in rocky hillsides and oak and beach forests of the Mediterranean
Due to habitat destruction and poaching for the pet trade, Hermann’s tortoises are considered as near threatened on the IUCN Red list category
They need to be microchipped and require specific CITES documentation to be legally kept and sold in the UK
Their diet should be high in fibre and calcium, but low in protein and carbohydrate.
Tortoises as old as Tommy are rare, with the usual life expectancy around 50 years.
Sheila said: ‘I was five years old when she was passed to my family.
‘My earliest memory of her is in my mother and father’s garden crawling around.
‘She was lovely to grow up with. I remember her racing around the garden and being quite speedy.
‘She’s very special, she’s a survivor.’
Sheila with 121-year-old Tommy. The property developer said that Tommy could easily live for another 50 years
A younger Sheila holding Tommy in the ’80s with the family dog trying to reach the small pet (pictured)
Sheila claims that Tommy’s longevity can be attributed to her healthy diet of garden weeds, and plenty of love and care from her owners over the last 121 years.
Tommy, an endangered Hermann’s tortoise was originally purchased by Sheila’s grandmother, Margaret Cloonan in 1909.
Margaret named the tortoise Tommy thinking he was a boy but discovered her true sex after she started to lay eggs.
Tommy (pictured) spends most of her time in the family’s garden and munches on weeds, grass and dandelions
Sheila said: ‘The eggs were empty but we were all shocked, we’d always thought she was a boy. It was too late to change the name so the name has stuck ever since.’
Sheila added that growing up Tommy was exotic compared to most pets her friends had.
She said: ‘In the ’70s most tortoises died, but my mother was really good with her. She’s survived so long because she’s been so well looked after.
‘She’s like a family member, she’s like a duchess, we’ve all grown up with her.’
Tommy has lived through 21 US presidents, two world wars and six monarchs. Pictured: The family dog getting very close to the tortoise in the 80s, in Sheila’s garden
Sheila’s dog and Tommy hanging out in Sheila’s garden. The turtle was already around the day the Titanic sank on 12 April 1912
Tommy spends her days in the garden and enjoys a particular spot under a hedge.
Remarkably, Tommy hibernates for six months of the year but always wakes up on either April 1st – which was Sheila mother’s birthday or Mother’s day.
‘It’s funny how she wakes up on those two days, it’s like mum calling her and telling her to wake up even after all these years,’ Shelia said.
She added that Tommy enjoys munching on grass, weeds and dandelions, and is easier to look after than any other kind of pet.
‘She’s cheap. She eats from the weeds from the garden and hibernates under the soil, she looks after herself. There’s no expense,’ she explained.
A non-exhaustive list of events Tommy has lived through
1898 – Tommy is born during the reign of Queen Victoria
1901 – Queen Victoria dies, Edward VII becomes king
1910 – Edward VII dies, George V becomes king
1912 – RMS Titanic sinks
1914 – Outbreak of WW1
1918 – End of WW1
1921 – Partition of Ireland
1929 – Wall Street crash
1936 – George V dies, abdication crisis, Edward VIII abdicates and George VI becomes King
1939 – Outbreak of WW2
1940 – Battle of Britain
1945 – End of WW2
1948 – NHS established
1952 – Death of George VI, Elizabeth II becomes Queen
1953 – Death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
1956 – Suez crisis
1957 – Sputnik orbits the earth
1963 – Assassination of President Kennedy
1965 – Death of Sir Winston Churchill
1966 – England win the world cup
1969 – Man walks on the moon
1973 – Britain joins the European Economic Community
1979 – Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister
1982 – Falklands War
1989 – Berlin Wall comes down
1997 – Death of Princess Diana
2001 – 9/11, global war on terror follows
2003 – Coalition invasion of Iraq
2012 – Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, London hosts the Olympic games
2016 – Britain votes to leave the European Union