Horned Lizards as Pets

“Prehistoric” in the extreme and with an “other-worldly” ability to squirt blood from the eye when frightened, Horned Lizards have fascinated and frustrated lizard fans for decades. Sadly, the past saw millions meet an early demise due to poor husbandry. Horned Lizards (commonly known as “horny toads”) feed almost entirely upon ants of specific species, and consume hundreds weekly. So, unless your childhood plastic Ant Farm is doing incredibly well these days, please enjoy these delicate oddities in zoos or the wild only!


There are 22 species of horned lizard worldwide, and 15 species of horned lizard in North America.

Range and Habitat

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 and 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.

Horned Lizards Housing

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.

Horned Lizards Diet

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.