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Horned Frog

Horned Frog (Ceratophrys Ornata)Horned Frog (Ceratophrys Ornata)Horned Frog (Ceratophrys Ornata)Horned Frog (Ceratophrys Ornata)Horned Frog (Ceratophrys Ornata)
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Horned Frog Facts

Five groups that classify all living things
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
A group of animals within a pylum
A group of animals within a class
A group of animals within an order
A group of animals within a family
Scientific Name:
The name of the animal in science
Ceratophrys Ornata
The animal group that the species belongs to
What kind of foods the animal eats
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
14-20cm (5.5-8in)
The measurement of how heavy the animal is
320-480g (11.2-17oz)
Top Speed:
The fastest recorded speed of the animal
8km/h (5mph)
How long the animal lives for
5-8 years
Whether the animal is solitary or sociable
Conservation Status:
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
Least Concern
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
Brown, White, Yellow
Skin Type:
The protective layer of the animal
Permeable scales
Favourite Food:
The preferred food of this animal
The specific area where the animal lives
Rainforest and tropical swamplands
Average Litter Size:
The average number of babies born at once
Main Prey:
The food that the animal gains energy from
Worms, Roaches, Insects
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
Birds, Snakes, Bears
Special Features:
Characteristics unique to this animal
Bumpy skin and long, sticky tongue

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Horned Frog Location

Map of Horned Frog Locations
Map of South America

Horned Frog

Like humans, horned frogs can have eyes that are bigger than their stomachs.


Also called Pacman frogs, Argentine horned frogs develop in various colors. The amphibians are patient predators. They sit still and wait for prey to come into sight before quickly springing into action with their mouths wide open, taking in their meal with one gulp. Horned frogs come from South America, and they will eat almost anything including mice, insects and birds. Today, some people keep them as exotic pets.

5 Horned Frog Facts

• Horned frogs have been known to suffocate in their attempt to eat something larger than themselves
• Female frogs are larger than males
• The frog species is close to being on the endangered species list
• People keep horned frogs as exotic pets
• Horned frogs live for five to eight years in the wild

Horned Frog Scientific Name

The South American horned frog is the common name for the amphibian, and its scientific name is Ceratophrys Ornata. People also call it the Argentine wide-mouthed frog and the Pacman frog because of its expansive gapping mouth. The Cranwells horned frog and the Argentine horned frog are the two main species of this type of amphibian. It is in the Ceratophryidae family and the Animalia kingdom.

The horned frog’s name is based on its appearance. The amphibian has pointy eyelids that raise up, giving the animal the look of horny eyes. These horns may help the frog hide itself since they look like leaf tips that are on resting on a forest floor. There are many myths surrounding these frogs. For instance, in Argentina, they’ve been labeled “horse killers.” In fact, they’ve merely grasped onto the lips of horses that are grazing for food. Since the frogs are nonvenomous, it’s unlikely that one could kill a horse.

Horned Frog Appearance and Behavior

Horned frogs are amphibians with round, squat bodies and jaws that are as wide as the size of their heads. The animal has short legs, which is different from other types of frogs, so it’s not great at jumping. Male horned frogs can grow to be around 4.5 inches long while females are bigger and measure around 6.5 inches long. The amphibians typically have yellow or white underbellies, and their limbs and back range in color combinations that include varying shades of greens, yellows, browns and even reds.

When it comes to behavior, people may think that live horned frogs are deceased ones. If a frog’s environment becomes dry or if the amphibian loses its food source, then the animal will enclose itself within a resilient outer layer of skin for protection. The frog will remain completely still, giving those who encounter it the impression of being dead. Once the frog becomes rehydrated, it will shed the resilient outer skin layer and ingest it.

The horned frog is aggressive. They use their wide mouths to catch and eat prey that’s almost the same size as they are. This type of frog is patient, and its coloring provides camouflage, so all the frog has to do is hide and wait in some greenery until something tasty wanders by. When it does, the frog lunges and grabs its meal with its strong jaws and teeth, killing and swallowing its prey. If the frog feels threatened, it will attack whatever is frightening it. The frog will attack even if the animal that’s threatening it is several times bigger than it is. The horned frog will cannibalize its own kind.

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Horned Frog Habitat

The horned frog makes its home in debris-filled muddy forest floors that are humid and wet. In the wild, the amphibians call wet tropical rainforests and swamp areas home. If you intend to keep a pet horned frog, create a comfortable environment for it by including moist peat moss, clean damp soil or grated pine bark mulch in its enclosure. Be sure to keep the frog’s enclosure damp but not overly wet. If it’s too wet, then it can cause bacteria to grow, distressing your pet and potentially causing illness. If you use soil or pine bark mulch, then it will dry out from the top down. When the top dries out entirely, moisten it. Try giving your horned frog a light mist using a spray bottle once a day either in the morning or at night. Be sure to keep your pet’s enclosure clean. Change the base material completely twice a month. This will decrease the possibility of bacteria growing. It will also reduce ammonia issues and the buildup of the animal’s fecal matter.

Include a small bowl of water in your frog’s enclosure. Make sure that the size of the bowl lets your frog get a drink and maybe splash around a bit without drowning. If your pet’s enclosure is on the dry side, then he or she will likely hang out in the water dish. Add a few plants around it to help your frog feel safe and secure.

When you have a pet horned frog, make sure that his or her enclosure stays around 82 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime hours. At night, the temperature can decrease to about 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to add heat to the container, use an under-tank heater instead of a bulb overhead. A bulb is likely to dry your frog’s skin too much.

Horned Frog Diet

When the Argentine horned frog is living in the wild, it consumes mice, insects, amphibians, lizards and even other frogs. Horned frogs that live in zoos or in people’s homes dine on mice and crickets. You can give yours worms to eat. If you decide to feed your frog mice, do so occasionally because the amphibians are quite inactive. In fact, they may only jump to another spot after they’ve defecated in their previous one. This means that they can become overweight if they are fed a rich diet of fattening mice. You can feed a small horned frog daily. Once it reaches adulthood, feed him or her once every two or three days.

Horned Frog Predators and Threats

The horned frog is at risk from snakes, bears and birds. This species of frog is hovering toward the endangered species list. It is near threatened status. The animal isn’t an immediate concern for environmental researchers, but they are watching it. Since the horned frog is an amphibian, environmental changes and pollution may be harmful to it. This is because of the animal’s delicate skin.

Today, many animals are facing survival challenges because they are losing their natural habitats. This includes horned frogs. Locals kill them because they inaccurately believe that they are venomous. People in the pet trade also collect them to sell.

When the frog species is kept in captivity, the animal may suffer from skin and eye infections caused by bacteria or fungus. If you’re keeping one as a pet, watch for pus, redness or swelling on his or her skin. Respiratory infections are something else to watch out for. They happen less frequently in horned frogs than they do in other reptile and amphibian species, but they may still occur. If you notice that your pet is especially lethargic, wheezing or drooling, then take him or her to an exotic pet veterinarian.

The animal species may suffer from parasitic infections. If you’ve determined that the enclosure temperatures are in a comfortable range and your frog doesn’t want to eat, then have him or her checked out for parasites. It’s also a good idea to give your vet an annual fecal sample to make sure that your frog friend is healthy. Most frog conditions are treatable if they’re caught in time.

Horned Frog Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan

The South American horned frog prefers to spend its time burrowed deep down in the mud or within leaf debris. Typically, the only time that the amphibian risks going out into the jungle is for reproduction purposes. When they feel the urge to reproduce, the horned frog will conceal itself under some moss or leaves with just its eyes and the top of its head sticking out. Mating frogs are highly alert to any sound or movement happening around them. This is likely because they are more vulnerable when they’re out of their isolated mud areas.

Once a pair of frogs mate, the female will search for a water source where she can lay her eggs. After finding one that’s suitable, she’ll lay around 2,000 eggs. Horned frog eggs hatch in about two weeks. When they first hatch, they are tadpoles. In the tadpole phase, the amphibians are completely carnivorous and will eat one another if the opportunity arises. Tadpoles grow super-fast, and in just one month, they’ll become tiny frogs. Horned frogs reach sexual maturity in 18 months to 24 months.

The lifespan of this frog species is from five years to eight years in the wild. When they are in captivity, the amphibians can live as long as 15 years.

Horned Frog Population

According to a study published in the Herpetological Conservation and Biology Journal, the horned frog is a species that is under threat of extinction. The study tracked the frog population from 2008 to 2017. For the study, the research team surveyed adult frogs when they were in their breeding areas. They checked these areas in spring and summer. This study reported that there were as many as 175 taxa of the amphibians in Argentina during this time period. A number of researchers confirm that the horned frog population is decreasing.

Horned Frog FAQ

Are Horned Frogs Carnivores, Herbivores or Omnivores?

Horned frogs are carnivores that aren’t particularly picky about what kind of animal that they eat. The amphibians will attack almost anything that crosses their path when they’re hungry including animals that are larger than themselves. Along with a large mouth, a horned frog has a super sticky tongue that holds onto its meal and retracts, pulling the animal into its mouth. Once there, the frog’s enormous jaws use immense force to clamp down, preventing the prey from escaping. Some researchers have compared the frog’s tongue to an adhesive that is pressure sensitive.

Are Horned Frogs Dangerous?

Horned frogs are not dangerous to people. The amphibians are only a danger to other smaller sized animals and each other.

Do Pacman Frogs Make Good Pets?

Pacman frogs are a common species available in the pet trade industry. The amphibians are easy to take care of, and they are unique and interesting pets to own. If you prefer owning animals that are low maintenance, then you might want to consider getting one. These creatures are not very active, so if you want an animal to play with, then a Pacman frog may not be for you. This type of frog is not one that’s meant to be handled.

The frog species doesn’t require a large container. In fact, a 10-gallon tank will work perfectly. If you get a Pacman frog, only get one since they are cannibals. Purchase a tank with a top to keep the container’s temperatures and humidity levels comfortable for your exotic pet. It’s unlikely that your frog will try to escape especially since he or she will be living in a cozy place with food that’s readily available.

When you select your Pacman frog, look for an animal that’s alert and active, one with blemish-free skin that has bright, clear eyes. Try to watch the one you want eat something before bringing it home. Pacman frogs will usually only turn down food when they are ill. Search for a reputable breeder. He or she should be able to give you a detailed health history on your pet. Captive-bred frogs are the better choice because they’ll be less likely to have parasites or another ailment. Also, buying from a breeder means that you’re not encouraging the removal of the animal from the wild.

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First Published: 20th January 2009, Last Updated: 19th March 2020

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