Frogs and Toads - How to tell the difference

© Tom Marshall

It's easy to get frogs and toads mixed up so here's how to tell the difference.

These two amphibians look very similar at first glance, but you'll notice tell-tale differences when looking closer.

Technically, all toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads. Why? They all belong to the order Anura (ancient Greek for "without a tail"), commonly referred to as "frogs". Within this order, there are different families, such as the family bufonidae - all of its members are toads. In the UK, we have two species of each frog and toads, but you'll most likely see common frogs or common toads, so we'll focus on these two. 

Here's what to look out for.

Skin

This is probably the easiest way to tell the two apart. Frogs have smooth and slimy skin with a yellow to brown colour and a distinctive brown patch behind the eyes. Toads' skin is dry and somewhat warty, dry-looking skin with a brownish colour. The slimy look of frogs (they don’t feel slimy!) is caused by the secretion from glands in the skin, which keep it moist and supple. This is extremely important as frogs breathe through their skin as well as through their lungs. Toads do this to a lesser extent. 

Common Frog in Garden Pond

© Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Location

If you spot an amphibian making its way along a pavement or ambling through some grass, chances are it’s a toad. In fact, toads spend most of their life away from water and only return to their breeding pond to reproduce. Frogs are rarely seen too far away from water.

Common toad

Common toad © Russell Savory

Legs

Frogs have long legs which allow them to jump about 20 times their body size. Toads, on the other hand, have much shorter legs and walk or crawl rather than leap. 

Shape

Frogs look slimmer and much more athletic, while toads are somewhat thickset and squat. Frogs also have a pointier face in comparison to a toad's rather broad face. 

Frog leaping into pond

Common frog leaping into a pond © Dale Sutton/2020vision

Spawn

Their spawn (= eggs) are a good way to determine which species you are looking at. Frog spawn is laid in gooey clumps whereas toad spawn are long strings. 

Frog and toad spawn

© Clare Gray

Sadly, toads and frogs have suffered dramatic declines in the past due to a loss and fragmentation of habitats. You can give your struggling amphibians a hand by building a pond in your garden.

Learn more 

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