Common Spadefoot Toad Fact File

Pelobates fuscus

Credit: Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 10 years

Captive 10 years




Conservation Status


Least Concern

Common spadefoot toads are named for the large extension of their foot which is used to help them to burrow in to the soil.

They are found across parts of Europe. Their day is spent in a burrow before they emerge at night to hunt for invertebrates. During parts of the year they undertake a hibernation.

After their period of hibernation the males will gather at the water's edge and call to attract a mate.

Populations of this species are declining across much of their range due to habitat loss, disease and the introduction of predators such as crayfish and fish.

Read on to learn more about these amazing amphibians.


What does the common spadefoot toad look like?

Common spadefoot toads are named for the spade like appendage on the back feet which are used to dig backwards in to the soil. This is an extension of the foot bone sitting next to the inside toe. It is colored black. Their hind feet are heavily webbed.

Across their body the common spadefoot toad has smooth skin. This is colored yellow-grayish, brown-grayish or brown. It is patterned with large dark brown or dark-olive spots and smaller red spots.

On the underside these animals have white-gray skin which features no patterns.

An average common spadefoot toad will measure up to 8cm (3.25in) long. Males tend to have a smaller body than females.


What does the common spadefoot toad eat?

They are a carnivore which will feed on a range of invertebrates.

Common spadefoot toad

Credit: 5snake5, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Where can you find the common spadefoot toad?

Europe and Western Asia is the native home of the common spadefoot. Here they can be found in the following countries - Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czechia; Denmark; Estonia; France; Germany; Hungary; Italy; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Moldova; Netherlands; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Sweden and Ukraine.

They are considered extinct in Switzerland.


What kind of environment does the common spadefoot toad live in?

They make their home in forest, shrubland, grassland and wetlands. These animals are primarily found in open areas. They will live among sand dunes and gravel pits which will allow them to burrow.

Breeding takes place in a waterbody which includes ditches, ponds and lakes. In parts of their range they will make use of modified habitats such as rice paddies.

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How does the common spadefoot toad produce its young?

Breeding takes place during spring. Mating takes place at a pond with vegetation along its edges.

Males sit alongside the water and will call out.

Following a successful mating the female will deposit hundreds of eggs in strings which reach up to 1m (3.3ft) long.

These eggs hatch in to a larvae known as a tadpole which will live in the water. These spend their time in the water over winter before metamorphosing in to their adult form. Due to their long time spent as a larvae they are threatened by the drying out of wetlands.

Sexual maturity is reached by 2 years old.


What does the common spadefoot toad do with its day?

These animals are active during the night. During the breeding season they may also remain active during the day when they seek out a mate.

Much of their time is spent under the ground. Their hind feet are used to dig and the head is wide to help them push through the soil.

They undertake a period of hibernation from September to April. During this period they will dig a burrow in to the soil or they make use of another animals abandoned burrow.

Common spadefoot toad

Credit: 5snake5, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the common spadefoot toad?

Common spadefoot toads have a range of measures to avoid predation. These include inflating the body and sitting up higher on their legs so that they appear bigger and squealing.

A garlic like odor is emitted when threatened which may also deter a predator.

The population of the common spadefoot toad is said to be declining in some of their range countries. In other parts of the range it is considered common. In Switzerland they are already considered extinct.

They are under threat from pollution and the introduction of predators such as fish and crayfish. Diseases such as the chytrid fungus further threaten this species.

Small numbers of these animals may be collected for the pet trade.

Quick facts

These animals may also be known as the garlic toad and the European common spadefoot.

The species was previously known by the scientific name Bufo fuscus and Rana fuscus.

Common spadefoot toad

Credit: Michael Linnenbach, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Aram Agasyan, Aziz Avci, Boris Tuniyev, Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovic, Petros Lymberakis, Claes Andrén, Dan Cogalniceanu, John Wilkinson, Natalia Ananjeva, Nazan Üzüm, Nikolai Orlov, Richard Podloucky, Sako Tuniyev, U?ur Kaya. 2009. Pelobates fuscusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T16498A5951455. Downloaded on 03 October 2021. 2021. Pelobates fuscus. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 October 2021].

European Environment Agency. 2021. Common spadefoot toad - Pelobates fuscus (Laurenti, 1768). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 October 2021].

AmphibiaWeb 2021 Pelobates fuscus: Common Spadefoot <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Oct 3, 2021.

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