Frog peeking out
Photo by mvaligursky/Envato

What is the difference between a frog and a toad?

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What’s the difference between a frog and a toad? They’re both little animals with buggy eyes and strong legs — so how can you tell them apart? Here’s a quick look.


The difference between frogs and toads?

At first glance, frogs and toads look pretty similar. They’re both amphibians, which is a class of animals that live both in water and on land, and also includes salamanders.

Frogs and toads also belong to the same order — anura (meaning “without a tail”) — all of which most experts simply refer to as “frogs.”

That’s because although you can say that a toad is a frog, you can’t necessarily say a frog is a toad. Clear as mud yet?

Okay. With a little help from Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education, let’s break down the differences.

Froggie facts

Frogs have skin that is smooth and/or slimy to the touch. They have strong, long hind legs — where their renowned jumping ability comes from — along with webbed hind feet to help them swim.

Frogs generally will not stray far from water or moist/damp areas because they can only live a few hours out of water. They have large, bulging eyes, and lay their eggs in clusters.

An endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) - Photo by USGS
An endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) – Photo by USGS
A female frog on a tree branch - Photo by JP Zegarra, USFWS
A female frog on a tree branch – Photo by JP Zegarra, USFWS

Toad tips

A toad will have rough, “warty,” dry skin — and no, you can’t get warts from touching a toad, that’s an old myth.

However, the US Fermilab notes that toads do secrete a substance from the skin that can be very irritating if it comes into contact with mucous membranes like the eyes, nose, mouth, etc.

Toads have stubby bodies with short hind legs, and non-webbed feet. Toads can hop only a few inches at a time.

While toads can handle dry conditions and can be away from water longer than frogs, they still will need to return to a moist area after awhile. Unlike frogs, toads tend to lay their eggs in long chains, not clusters. (All frogs and toads must come back to the water to mate and lay eggs.)

MORE: What’s the difference between crocodiles & alligators?

Western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii) in California - Photo by Chris Brown, USGS
Western spadefoot toad (Spea hammondii) in California – Photo by Chris Brown, USGS
An endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) - Photo by USGS
An endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) – Photo by USGS

And finally, a useful tip if you ever have to describe a mass gathering of either: A group of frogs is referred to as an “army of frogs,” whereas it would be called a “knot of toads.”