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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

This blog is toad-ally awesome

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

This blog about toads in the Lowveld was written by Bushwise student Brandon Leong.

3 min read

Toad-ay I explored the wonderful world of our amphibious friends and there were a number of things that really hopped out at me! There is just one small problem with that fact though which is that toads don’t actually hop! That would be the frog, whom they are often mistaken for. And this is just one of quite a few differences between these two amphibians.

What’s the difference between frogs and toads?

A photo of two ornate frogs in a mating clasp. The male frog is on top of the female, grasping her with his front legs. Both frogs are intricately patterned with vibrant colors, showcasing their unique beauty in this intimate moment.

For the longest time, I thought that frogs and toads were the same thing. That maybe they were simply called frogs in some parts of the world and toads in others. But here is a brain twister for you: All toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads! The reason for this is because they both fall into the same scientific order of Anura. It gets a little deeper as “true toads” are classified into the family known as “Bufonidae”. I never stopped to consider just how different these two amphibians were from one another.

Let’s start with the obvious, their appearances. Frogs tend to look wet and smooth. Their bodies are covered with all sorts of wonderful colors.

Toads are the complete opposite! They have dry thick skin that usually has bumps on it. These bumps are glands that secrete a smelly and foul-tasting fluid. Toads are usually brown – which makes figuring out who’s who a whole lot easier!

The next big leap into differentiating the two is their movement. Toads actually prefer to walk around with their little legs as opposed to their moist friends – although they can hop small distances when they feel like it. Frogs are more equipped to hop and swim, and even do little cannon balls right into your swimming pool. 

If you are anything like me, you would like to think you could find toads with little mushroom hats riding around in go-karts with plumbers, but that’s more of a distant dream. In reality, they like to live in woodland areas as well as damp environments like garden ponds, where they lay their eggs during breeding season. 

What’s in a toad’s diet?

A red toad sitting on the ground. The toad's bright red color is visible against the brown earth and wall behind it. Its eyes are large and noticeable, and its smooth skin blends in with the environment.

When toads get hungry, they have a number of options in the great buffet of the wild. They find sustenance in a carnivorous diet consisting of crickets, flies, spiders, grubs, mice, rats, rodents and wait for it…OTHER TOADS AND FROGS. Pretty much anything that moves and can fit in their mouths. They have excellent sense of taste and may even spit out something that they do not find to be too delicious

As I mentioned earlier, toads actually have a pretty nifty defense mechanism. They secrete a toxin that looks like a white milk from their bumpy skin glands. The milk tastes disgusting to any predators that may want to have a go at some “toad in the hole”. (I had a dog once that learnt the hard way that toads don’t taste very nice.) But in the animal kingdom taste is not everything and some animals do not mind the toxins. Animals such as snakes and birds of prey find them rather delicious and an important part of their diet!

Talking about eating toads reminds me of a book I read a few months back called, “Eat The Frog First” which is a fitting title for toads as they taste TERRIBLE to humans too ! So if you were forced to eat a toad, at what time of the day would you do it? First thing in the morning is ideal, that way you won’t be dreading having to eat a toad all day! That’s something to think about. (NB: I don’t recommend eating a toad).

Toads are toad-ally awesome. I hope we can all sleep better at night now knowing more about toads.

The Lowveld isn’t just mammals and birds – learn about all the other amazing creatures, like toads, on a Bushwise Professional Field Guide course.


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