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Argentine Horned Frog Fact File


The Argentine horned frog takes its name from the pointed eyelids on top of its head rather than an actual horn. These break up the shape of their body and assist with camouflaging with their environment.

Their body is covered with an ornate pattern made up of a mixture of reds, oranges, greens and blacks. These help to break up the body and provide camouflage while they are hiding in the leaf litter. On the underside they are colored white or yellow.

Albino specimens have been found and captive breeding has created a range of different colors.

The legs of an Argentine horned frog are short and they are not particularly proficient at jumping.

Females grow to a larger size than males. These females measure an average of 16.5cm (6.5in) long while males reach 11.4cm (4.5in) long.


These animals are carnivores. Their alternative name of pacman frog comes from their tendency to attempt to eat anything which will fit in their mouth. Main prey sources include mice, lizards, smaller frog species, other amphibians and insects. They may also cannibalize juveniles of their own species.

Argentine horned frogs are ambush predators. They will lay in wait until a prey item comes near them and then launch out to grab them.

Argentine horned frog

Scientific Name

Ceratophrys ornata

Conservation Status

Near Threatened



11.4cm (4.5in)


16.5cm (6.5in)


Wild 8-9 years



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South America is the native home of the Argentine horned frog. Here they live in their name sake Argentina along with Brazil and Uruguay.


They make their home in grasslands. Commonly they are found near a temporary waterbody. Argentine horned frogs may also make use of man-made habitats such as roadside ditches and irrigated cropland.

Argentine horned frog


Breeding takes place during the spring. Males call to the females in an attempt to attract a mate. This call is a low, clinking sound.

They will deposit the eggs at the bottom of a temporary waterbody. Each clutch may include up to 2000 eggs.

These eggs hatch after a two week incubation. The tadpoles are able to communicate underwater, this is the first recorded instance of a vertebrates larvae making sound underwater.

These sounds are created by pushing air out of the developing lungs which start to form at 3 days old.

As the pools in which the eggs are laid are temporary they metamorphose in to an adult frog quickly, sometimes as early as 2 weeks old.

They are sexually mature between 1.5 and 2 years old.


During autumn and winter the Argentine horned frog will burrow in to the ground and create a cocoon around itself to prevent water loss. They emerge from this period of inactivity in late winter or early spring once there has been sufficient rain to create the temporary pools needed for breeding.

These animals are active by day with most of their time being occupied by sitting in wait for food.

Argentine horned frog

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Argentine horned frog include snakes, bears and birds.

Humans threaten the Argentine horned frog through habitat loss and pollution of water and soil. These animals are killed due to a mistaken belief that they are venomous.

They may be collected for sale in the pet trade or use in research. These frogs have been bred in captivity helping to reduce the need for collection from the wild.

Quick facts

In some areas they are known as a horse killer. This myth comes from a habit of grabbing the lips of horses while they are feeding. These animals are not venomous and it is unlikely a horse could actually die from this bite.

They are known by many alternative names including the ornate horned frog, Argentine wide-mouthed frog, pacman frog and Bell’s horned frog.

Photo Credits


By Melanie Mae Bryan from Greensboro, NC, USA – [1], CC BY 2.0,


Under License


By user avmaier-, CC BY 2.0,


Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley, p.

Axel Kwet, Gabriel Skuk, Débora Silvano, Esteban Lavilla, Ismael di Tada, Rafael Lajmanovich. 2004. Ceratophrys ornata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T56340A11464790. Downloaded on 08 December 2020.

Spinner, L., 2020. The Argentine "Pac Man" Horned Frog – Natural History And Captive Care – Reptiles Magazine. [online] Reptiles Magazine. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 December 2020].

Louisville Zoo. 2020. Frog, Ornate Horned. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 December 2020].

AmphibiaWeb 2016 Ceratophrys ornata: Bell's Horned Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 7, 2020.

Honolulu Zoo Society. 2020. Ornate Horned Frog – Honolulu Zoo Society. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 December 2020].

Amphibian Fact. 2020. Argentine Horned Frog Facts And Pictures. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 December 2020].

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