Toad vs. Frog: What's the Difference?

Toads and frogs look similar, but they have several important differences that help you to tell them apart.

Sep 13, 2023By Sara Payne
toad vs frog how can you tell the difference

At first glance, both a toad and a frog have a similar appearance. They are both tailless amphibians belonging to the Anura order. They both have similar behaviors. So, how can you tell them apart?

A frog has smooth, mucus-covered skin and longer hind legs. They are also found near water. Toads have bumpy skin and don’t need to remain near water to stay moist.

But, sometimes this classification can become a little tricky. What about frogs that live on land? Or what about toads that have brightly colored skin?

Read on to figure out how to tell the two amphibians apart.

How Are Toads and Frogs Different?

green toad brown toad

Frogs and toads are both amphibians that belong to the order Anura. Their overall appearance is very similar, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that toads have shorter hind legs than frogs. These are better for walking on dry land. Toads also don’t have webbed feet.

In contrast, frogs have long hind legs with webbed feet, making them perfect swimmers.

If you aren’t keen on picking up the creature to have a look at its hind legs, then there are 3 additional ways to tell a frog and a toad apart.


toad bumpy skin

You’ve probably heard the old wives’ tale that says a toad will give you warts. This myth comes from the nature of a toad’s skin. If you look at a toad, it will have bumpy, rough skin. These bumps can vary in size from rather small to large and disgusting looking. Their skin is also dry. This is because toads live on land.

Toads are better able to regulate the moisture in their skin. They are also more waterproof than frogs, so they don’t need to be constantly moist.

Frogs, on the other hand, have smooth, mucus-covered skin. Their skin loses moisture easily, so they stay near pools of water to keep from drying out. They are generally more brightly colored than toads. Frogs can come in colors ranging from bright green to red to blue. Toads are typically brown or yellow or black with mottled skin for camouflage.

Both frogs and toads breathe through their skin, so it is best not to pick one up. Both amphibians can secrete toxins through their skin that can be harmful to humans and other animals. A toad usually has a large poisonous gland behind its eyes. Poisonous frogs are usually brightly colored.


frog in water with lily pads

If you are strolling along in the woods and see this creature and there is no water in sight, it is probably a toad. A toad can be found up to a mile away from breeding ponds. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Toads like to live in fields and grasslands. You can often see them in gardens. They like to snack on insects and are generally welcome in the backyard.

Frogs prefer to stay close to water. They breed and hunt near pools of water. Certain types climb trees, as well.


toads piled on

The habits of toads and frogs vary. Toads and frogs lay eggs differently. Toads lay eggs in pools of water in long strings. These are usually wrapped around tall grass or over some leaves. They are perfectly camouflaged.

Frogs lay eggs in clusters near the surface of the water. They are easier to see. Some male frogs also stay nearby to guard the eggs.

Another habit that is different between these creatures is their way of moving. Toads crawl with their stout bodies and short legs. Frogs leap. They are nimbler, leaner, and longer. They can move quickly into and out of the water.

How are Toads and Frogs the Same?

frog bubble cheeks

Yet, even with all these differences, toads and frogs have a lot of similarities. They both go through the same life cycle. They begin as eggs in a pool of water. They emerge as swimming tadpoles. They eventually begin to grow legs until their tail disappears.

They also feed similarly. Frogs and toads both eat insects. They both use their long, sticky tongues to capture prey and bring it into their mouths. They swallow their food whole. Some large toads and frogs can even eat rodents, other frogs, and baby snakes.

Are there exceptions?

tan frog

Certain toads and frogs don’t follow all the rules. Some frogs resemble toads by being duller colored with bumpy skin. For example, Australian ground frogs often get confused with toads. On the other hand, Harlequin Toads look more like frogs than toads because they are brightly colored.

The terms toad and frog are technically common names. Scientifically, there is no difference between the two. Yet, the difference comes when people are possibly identifying them as an invasive species. Some parts of the world like Australia have a large number of invasive Cane Toads, which are destructive to native animals. People may kill a frog that resembles a toad if they believe it to be this invasive species, which can be unfortunate for the native creature.


toad close up

The rule of thumb for telling toads and frogs apart is to look at the skin, the hind legs, the habitat, and the behaviors. If you see a bumpy-skinned Anura far from water with short hind legs, it is probably a toad. If you see a moist, smooth-skinned Anura with long, jumpy legs near water, it is probably a frog. There are exceptions, but in general, it is best to leave these wild creatures alone as many of them secrete toxins that can be poisonous to humans.

Sara Payne
By Sara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.