Species group: Horned Lizards
Other common names: Horned Toad; Horny Toad
Scientific name: Phrynosoma platyrhinos
Desert Horned Lizards are native to western North America, typically from Idaho southward to northern Mexico. They are mostly found in areas with sand or gravel and sparse vegetation.
Appearance / health:
Maturing to about 5 inches in length, the Desert Horned Lizard has an oval-shaped flattened body that takes on the color of the ground such as tan, gray, cream or brick red with dark markings to camouflage itself in its surroundings. Dark blotch markings with white edges are seen on the neck, some irregularly on the back, and small ones on the tail. The belly is whitish with dark spots. They have one row of spiny scales along the sides of the body and neck. They also have pointed scales on the back. The horns at the back of the neck are longer than wide at the base.
Behavior / temperament:
Desert Horned Lizards are diurnal. When resting or sleeping, they dig themselves into the sand to cover their bodies leaving the top of the head and eyes above ground. They are shy and will immediately dash into hiding when startled. When provoked or threatened, they hiss. When handled, they inflate their bodies to look bigger and poke the handler with their horns. When desperate, they are known to squirt blood from their eyes.
Desert Horned Lizards are best housed in a dry, terrestrial type terrarium decorated with stones, and driftwood or dried root. The substrate must be sand or gravel that is about half a foot deep to allow for digging and burrowing. Succulent plants are recommended. Day temp: 86-104F; night temp: 65-68F; humidity: 40-60%; lighting: 14 hours, UV required.
Desert Horned Lizards should be kept as a pair or a group with one male. A water dish is not necessary because the Desert Horned Lizard gets its fluids from its food.
Desert Horned Lizards feed on slow-moving insects including spiders and beetles but their main diet is ants. They are often seen close to anthills. Because of their specific diet, Desert Horned Lizards do not thrive as house pets.
Desert Horned Lizards made in the spring and deposit 2-15 eggs in June or July. The eggs incubate for 50-60 days. Females often have two clutches per year.
zoo collections, appearance
live ants, captivity, primarily harvester ants
Eastern Oklahoma, interesting defense mechanisms, horny toads, Arizona basin, eyes, West Texas
That's a "horny toad"?
Horned lizard, or as I was told, "horny toad"...You have to admit that these creatures are simply wicked looking. I love them. They look so primal. Do they make a good pet though? Well, I would say that it depends on what you are looking for in a pet.
Growing up in Eastern Oklahoma, I had never seen one until visiting my grandpa in West Texas for the summer. I had always heard people mention horny toads, so I was wanting to find one. I had no idea that it was a lizard. Apparently they just have fat bodies that remind people of toads. Even with that knowledge, I wasn't disappointed when I finally saw one. My grandpa had one as a pet. He named him "Igor". Of course I use the term "pet" loosely. Basically, he hung around my grandpa's house and fed off of the ants. I guess he was comfortable enough to let us pick him up though, because he never shot blood out of his eyes at us...Yes, they can do that. Instead, he would just hang out on the front of my grandpa's shirt for a while. My grandpa would do some yard work, find an ant hill and then he would position Igor near it. The next day he would find him around the same area and repeat the process. I guess they had a pretty good working relationship.
Still, if you are considering one as a pet, consider a bit longer. They don't last long in captivity, from what I have been told. Also, since they mostly live off of live ants, you will need to have a steady supply of them. I don't know about you, but that isn't a food source that I want to purposely introduce into my home. However, I think the best argument against having them as pets is the fact that we need them in the wild. They help keep the ant population down. Unfortunately, they are dying out in West Texas where my grandpa is from. People have decided to put poison out for the ants, in turn it is killing the horned lizard.
So, if you see a "horny toad" outside somewhere, admire it....even take pictures of it, but leave it there. It has a job to do and it is trying its hardest to do it well..
From jarrodr Apr 18 2014 2:16PM
Desert Horned Lizard
I wish I could recommend the horned lizard, but even in zoo collections they give me a great deal of trouble. They are ant specialists, and in fact accept only certain species, and also need exposure to high levels of UVB, and likely, UVA. Unfortunately, we do not know enough about them as captives, and they usually do not thrive. Until more info is available, they are best enjoyed in the wild or in the few zoos which work with them..
From findiviglio Jul 13 2014 7:06PM