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The Terrifying Orchid Penises of Turtles and Tortoises

The animal kingdom is full of weird peens, but the gigantic, seemingly sentient flower-shaped dongs of turtles really take the cake

Recently, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a photo of a tortoise. Naturally, I paused to watch the video — tortoises are freaking cool. He was under a car, and it looked like he had some sort of orchid-like tube beneath him. Quickly, though, I realized that was no orchid… that was his penis

I, like many others last week, was scarred by the video, which was originally posted by @that_banshee_guy on Instagram and quickly became a viral Reel. The original video has since been deleted, but a secondary video of the tortoise with its dong out is still up. I imagine it was the first time most of us had seen a turtle/tortoise penis. God knows I’d remember if I’d seen one before. Regardless, the video sparked a great deal of curiosity, and now, per Google Trends, lots of people are trying to get a better understanding of turtle penises

According to a suspiciously in-depth Gizmodo article from 2012 on the topic, there’s a lot to know about this matter. For starters, turtle (I’m just going to say turtle from here on out, but tortoises, which typically spend more time on land, are included as well) penises aren’t visible when flaccid. Usually, they’re tucked inside the cloaca, the one hole they use to pee, poop, have sex and also sometimes breathe through, (yes, turtles can breathe through their dick/butt/vagina). 

Anyway, when male turtles become erect, the penis emerges as a large shaft that’s usually purple, dark gray or black in color. There’s some variety in penis shape between different breeds of turtles — particularly whether they’re sea turtles or fresh water, as well as among tortoises — but broadly, their traits are similar. Notably, it has a sort of blossoming head, which is where my original “orchid” comparison comes in — it’s bizarrely flared, like, in my opinion, a very scary flower. To add to the terror, the flared head is also capable of opening and closing. This isn’t entirely unique to the turtle — other animals, such as the echidna, have similarly flared heads, though the echidna has four of them. Surprisingly, Gizmodo describes the turtle penis as rather similar to mammal penises, at least somewhat in appearance, in that it’s composed of collagen fibers that hold it in that familiar “erect” shape.

Most frightening of all, though, is the size of the damn things. While there isn’t a ton of uniform data on turtle dicks, they’re often at least half the size of the overall turtle. That’d be like a six-foot-tall man having a three-foot-long dick. Truly a menacing concept. Given the magnitude of the turtle penis, turtle sex is also apparently quite the affair. In sea turtles, the male might stay inside the female for up to 24 hours. More commonly, in other turtle breeds, it lasts around an hour

Part of why it takes so long is because, well, they’re turtles. Not a ton is actually known about turtle sex, or why exactly their penises are so big, though — we don’t know for sure whether they’re fucking the whole time they’re in hump-position, or whether they’re just cuddling, for lack of a better word. However, it’s thought that male turtles may stay on top of females after mating to keep other males from taking their place.

While I do hope never to see a turtle/tortoise penis again, I gotta say: rock on, dudes. As beautiful as turtles are, I think a lot of people wrongly see them as somewhat pathetic creatures — for example, they’re slow, and can’t even properly turn themselves over if they fall on their back. Well, let their proportionally gigantic dicks be a lesson. Who’s pathetic, now?