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What is the difference between a frog and a toad?

You’d be forgiven for getting two of our most charismatic species, the frog and the toad, mixed up. These land and water-dwelling creatures begin to stir when spring rolls around, hopping out of hibernation and heading to their breeding pools to mate. But how do you tell them apart?

While these little amphibians might look very similar at first glance, there are actually a plethora of key differences between them. Read on to find out the differences between frogs and toads.

Frog or toad: how to tell the difference

Skin

If there was ever a tell-tale sign to indicate which amphibian you are looking at, it’s the texture of their skin. Toads are warty-looking, covered in little lumps and bumps, while frogs are sleek and smooth. Toads also virtually always have dry skin, whereas frogs look wet even when they are out of the water.

Location

If you’ve spotted an amphibian making its way along a pavement or ambling through some grass, chances are it’s a toad. Toads cope much better with dry conditions than frogs, as their skin is more waterproof. Frogs lose moisture a lot more easily, and so are rarely seen too far away from water, which explains why they always look moist.

Legs

Frogs have long legs, longer than their head and body, which are made for hopping. Toads, on the other hand, have much shorter legs and prefer to crawl around rather than hop.

Frogs have smooth, somewhat slimy skin (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/bunsview)
Frogs have smooth, somewhat slimy skin (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/bunsview)
Toads have dry warty skin (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/mille19)
Toads have dry warty skin (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/mille19)

Shape

Frogs are lithe and athletic-looking, whereas toads are somewhat squat and dumpy. Their faces are different too; frogs have a pointed nose while toad noses are much broader.

Spawn

Spawn is another key indicator for which species you’re looking at. Frog spawn is laid in gooey clumps, whereas toad spawn floats in stringy lengths.

Frog spawn (left) and toad spawn (right). (Photos: iStockPhoto.com/Gerdzhikov and iStockPhoto.com/Nneirda)
Frog spawn (left) and toad spawn (right). (Photos: iStockPhoto.com/Gerdzhikov and iStockPhoto.com/Nneirda)

Tadpoles

Like their adult counterparts, frog tadpoles are slimmer whereas toad tadpoles are chunky. Frog tadpoles are also covered in gold flecks, while toad tadpoles are plain black in colour.

Frog tadpoles have a thin tail and are dark with gold speckles (Photo: Larry Doherty/Alamy Stock Photo)
Frog tadpoles have a thin tail and are dark with gold speckles (Photo: Larry Doherty/Alamy Stock Photo)
Toad tadpoles are chunkier and black in colour (Photo: DP Wildlife Vertebrates/Alamy Stock Photo)
Toad tadpoles are chunkier and black in colour (Photo: DP Wildlife Vertebrates/Alamy Stock Photo)

Why not head outside and see what wildlife you can discover?

Visit a wood near you