Bullfrog vs Toad: How to Tell Them Apart

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: July 13, 2022
Image Credit LizzyB33/Shutterstock.com
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All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. These amphibians are closely related and look the part. Unless you know what features set them apart, you may find yourself at a loss when trying to identify them. We’ve made it easier for you by identifying five different ways that these creatures are different from one another. Using this bullfrog vs toad comparison guide, you will have a pretty good idea of how to tell them apart.

Remember that there are several bullfrog and toad species, so it’s a little hard to make sweeping generalizations. That being said, we’ve come up with concepts that hold up well across the various species. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the major differences between these animals.

Comparing a Bullfrog and a Toad

Toads have warty skin, while bullfrogs have wet and slimy skin.

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BullfrogToad
Colors– Brown and olive green to light green with darker spots on the head and back
Ventral side includes colors of white to yellow along with gray in blotches
– Include a variety of colors
– May have bright colors like yellow and red to demonstrate aposematism
– May also have many dull colors like brown, gray, and dark brown
Skin Texture– Often wet and slimy to prevent desiccation
– Textured skin, but often smoother and less bumpy
– Lacks enlarged parotoid glands
– Bumpy, warty
– Dry skin
– Parotoid glands behind their eyes appear as large lumps
Morphology– Large body with long back legs
– Possesses maxillary and vomerine teeth
– Webbed feet
– Large body with short, squat stature and short legs
– True toads have no teeth
– Typically, they do not have webbed feet
Habitat– Found near long-lasting bodies of water
– Lakes, ponds, swamps
– Must be near water, so they don’t dry out
– Wetlands, swamps, fields, meadows
– Don’t need to live in water, but often live within a mile or so
– Return to water to breed
Scientific ClassificationRanidae family
Lithobates genus
– Bufonidae family
– 35 different genera

The 5 Key Differences Between a Bullfrog vs Toad

Do Frogs Cause Warts
Toads are shorter, squatter, and thicker than bullfrogs.

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The greatest differences between a bullfrog and a toad include their skin texture and morphology. Bullfrogs have wet and slimy skin to prevent desiccation along with textured, somewhat bumpy skin, but toads tend to have dry, bumpy, and warty-looking skin.

Bullfrogs have teeth, long back legs, and webbed feet, but toads are short and squat, possess shorter legs, have no teeth, and frequently lack the webbed feet seen in bullfrogs.

These are major differences that you can see just by looking at the creatures. Yet, these amphibians have other unique qualities, too. We’ll examine and compare five key areas of these animals below.

Bullfrog vs Toad: Colors

Toads are more colorful than bullfrogs. The average American bullfrog usually has brown, various shades of green and dark spots on its dorsal side. Their ventral side has lighter colors such as light green, white, yellow, or even a light gray.

Toads appear in many colors like brown, dark brown, gray, and green. However, they also feature aposematism; bright skin colors that warn other animals that they possess a type of poison. After all, toads are poisonous, and they secrete this toxin through their skin.  

Their skin can be bright red or yellow to show other animals that they need to leave them alone. Your best bet is to not handle these creatures if you don’t know what type of frog it is.

Bullfrog vs Toad: Skin Texture

Toads have very warty, bump, and dry skin, and bullfrogs have slimy, textured, less-bumpy skin. Toads can live without being in the water, so they’re rarely as wet as bullfrogs which stave off desiccation by covering their body in a coating of mucus.

Toads have a lot of bumps and wart-like protrusions on their bodies, especially their parotoid glands that secrete bufotoxins. These parotoid glands are usually located behind the toad’s large eyes, and they look like two extra-large warts. The structures are not found in bullfrogs, though.

Bullfrog vs Toad: Morphology

Oak Toad
Oak toads have warty bodies, bright colors, and unwebbed feet.

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Bullfrogs have a leaner body than toads, and they also possess longer back legs. Toads have a short and squat body along with short legs that they use to hop around rather than leap long distances. Moreover, toads tend to walk rather than hop at all.

Bullfrogs definitely hop more frequently and for greater distances than toads. That’s not the only difference between these animals’ morphology, though. The bullfrog has webbed feet, while the toads generally do not. Also, bullfrogs have teeth, small though they may be. Toads do not have any teeth.

Bullfrog vs Toad: Habitat

As we said before, bullfrogs need to be near a body of water to survive. If they become dried out, they will die. That’s why you will find these creatures near permanent water fixtures such as lakes, swamps, and ponds. They have no qualms about going to manmade bodies of water, either.

Toads do not need to be near bodies of water, but they often remain close to them. They live on land, but they return to the water when it’s time to breed. So, you will still see bullfrogs and toads in the same areas, but you’re more likely to see a bullfrog near water than a toad.

Bullfrog vs Toad: Scientific Classification

Bullfrogs belong to a completely different family from true toads.

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Lastly, bullfrogs and toads belong to different scientific families. The so-called “true toads” belong to the Bufonidae family and have over 30 genera of toads included in them. However, the bullfrog is part of the Ranidae family. Specifically, they are members of the Lithobates genus.

Overall, these amphibians are somewhat closely related, but it’s easy to tell them apart on a phylogenetic tree.

Bullfrogs and toads may look similar in some cases, but it’s relatively easy to tell them apart. Their morphology and skin are a dead giveaway, and their colorations also help.

A quick and easy way to start questioning if an amphibian is a toad or a bullfrog is just by looking at their feet to see if they’re webbed or not. From there, consider their body type, texture, and how they move! You’ll spot differences in no time!

American Bullfrog in a pond

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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