Toad vs Frog: The Six Key Differences Explained

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: June 16, 2021

Toads and frogs are both amphibians, which means they share similarities such as spending at least part of their lives in water or some moist place, and they usually lack tails, scales, and claws on their feet. Both are members of the Anura order. Anura is a Greek word that means “tailless” even though there are frogs that seem to have tails.

After that, what separates a frog from a toad is surprisingly uncertain. Indeed, to scientists, there’s no real difference. There are between 2000 and 7100 species of frogs and toads, and though all toads are frogs, all frogs aren’t toads, usually. The differences are decided in what is called folk taxonomy.

According to folk taxonomy, frogs stay close to bodies of water or wet places, while toads can be found even in deserts. Toads tend to have skin that is famously warty or rough, while the skin of frogs is smooth and often slimy. Toads tend to be squatter and can’t jump as well as frogs, who often have long hind legs made for leaping. The eyes of toads are larger as well. In general, frogs are longer than toads, and the biggest frog in the world is the Goliath frog, which can grow to over a foot in length. In contrast, the biggest toad in the world is the cane toad, which can grow to 9.4 inches.

Comparing Toad vs Frog

Skinrough, wartysmooth, slimy
Bodybroad, squatlonger and slimmer
HabitatDry landAquatic, mostly
tadpolesSquat, shortLong, slender
LegsShorterLonger than head and body
TeethNoneTeeth in upper jaw, usually

The Six Key Differences Between Toads and Frogs

Six differences between Toad vs Frog are:

1. Toad vs Frog: Skin

Toads have drier, rougher skin and “warts” that cover their parotid glands. These are glands on the animals’ skin that secrete bufotoxins to deter predators. The warts are not real warts, which are caused by viruses, but simply part of a healthy toad’s physiology. The skin of frogs is smoother and can be slimy. Because their skin needs to stay moist, frogs tend to keep close to a body of water.

2. Toad vs Frog: Legs

The legs of a frog are much longer than those of a toad and may even be longer than the frog’s body. This allows them to jump great distances and swim quickly. A toad’s hind legs tend to be shorter than its body, which makes it look squat and fat. To get around, they crawl or make little hops. Sometimes a toad simply walks. Some frogs have been known to walk, too.

3. Toad vs Frog: Eggs

That frogs and toads need a body of water or a wet place to mate and lay their eggs is one of their similarities. Yet, a person can tell the difference between frog and toad eggs because frog eggs are laid in clumps in the water, and toad eggs are laid in long ribbons that can sometimes get tangled up in aquatic plants. Frog eggs are called frog spawn while toad eggs are called toad spawn.

4. Toad vs Frog: Color

Frogs tend to come in many more colors than toads. The most brilliantly colored frogs include the poison dart frogs of South America. The bad news is that their amazing colors let would-be predators know that they are extremely toxic. The beautiful golden poison frog has enough poison in its skin to kill between 10 and 20 grown men. But the poisonous skin of the rather drab-looking common toad can also be deadly if the toad is eaten or even handled without precautions. Poison skin is another one of the similarities shared by toads and frogs.

5. Toad vs Frog: Habitat

Frogs basically live in water, though the great majority have lungs and can leave the water for a time. Toads live on land and return to water to breed.

6. Toad vs Frog: Tadpoles

Like their parents, the tadpoles of frogs and toads are different. Frog tadpoles are longer and skinnier than toad tadpoles, which tend to be short and fat. Toad tadpoles are black, while frog tadpoles are flecked with gold.

Next Up: Moth vs Butterfly: The 8 Key Differences

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why is a frog not a toad?

A frog is usually not a toad because it has longer legs for jumping and swimming, smooth skin, a pointed snout and needs to live close to water to keep its skin from drying out.

Is a toad bigger than a frog?

Not necessarily. A toad can be larger, smaller, or the same size as a frog. It depends on the species.

Which is poisonous toad or frog?

Both frogs and toads can be poisonous, with poison dart frogs the most poison of all. Just a gram of the toxin from the skin of the golden poison dart frog can kill a small city full of people.

Can a frog and a toad mate?

Since toads are frogs anyway, it is logical to think that once in a while some cross-species breeding might occur. But toads and frogs are very particular about who they breed with and where they will breed. Toads, for example, like to return to their natal pond to breed even if this risks them mating with their own brothers and sisters. Moreover, the calls of male frogs and toads are only meant to attract females of the same species.

However, scientists have noticed that a species of spadefoot toad will mate with another species of spadefoot toad if there are challenging circumstances such as too little water in a breeding pond. The offspring are often sterile or do not produce as many eggs as their parents, and this occurs even as the toads belong to the same family. A cane toad, Rhinella marina and an African bullfrog, Pyxicephalus adspersus, probably wouldn’t produce any offspring at all. Indeed, the two species might try to kill and eat each other.