Plains Horned Toad

horned toad

Photo:  Creative Commons, 2.0, Paul Hurtado

Look at this little cutie!

Now known as a Texas horned frog or horned toad, he (or she) is actually a lizard – a reptile with scales, claws and young produced on land. One of them was first noticed in today’s Missouri by Lewis and Clark in May 1804 and was the first specimen sent back to President Jefferson, who forwarded it on to Charles Willson Peale to display in his new American Museum.

The stocky, short-tailed lizard has several large “horns” protruding from the back of the head. They are harmless and never try to bite. They defend themselves by puffing up their bodies with air to look bigger, or they can eject a small amount of blood from the inner corners of each eye to confuse a predator.

The lizard specializes in eating ants which helps limit their populations. They grow to 2-4 inches in length.

Originally found as far north as the Missouri River valley, the lizards are today primarily found in the southwestern U.S. and only as far north as southwestern Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: February 21, 2020