Horny Toad

“It was a rough land that bred a tough man.”

Louis L’Amour, Utah Blaine (1984)

The observer may glean some insight into the nature of the land by looking at its native inhabitants. When you’re wearing a helmet of horns and shrouded in barbed chain mail, then you know the San Rafael Wilderness is some rough country.

When I was a kid on a Monte Vista elementary school field trip to Cachuma Lake, one of the kids in my class caught a horny toad. It was a raving huge hit.

And so pestered did the lizard become as the center of rambunctious childhood attention that it demonstrated one of the oddest sights in this here county.

The crazy thing spurted blood from its eyeballs!

It was probably the first time most of the kids even became aware that such a wild looking lizard lived in their greater backyards, to say nothing of actually holding one, and then, of all things, watching the lizard shoot blood from its eyes.

It was a wild scene, I tell you what.

All these many years later, despite catching many of them through the decades, and even poking a few here and there, I still have not yet seen another horny toad bleed from its eyes.

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6 Responses to Horny Toad

  1. Greg says:

    I sure would love to know how you got that guy to lie on his back… were you rubbing his tummy?

  2. lanny@herbwalks.com says:

    Hey Jack,

    Still enjoying your writings. I liked the Hank Hill link. So did you rub its belly to get it to lay there like a kitty cat?

    Happy trails, Lanny

    >

  3. Amazing looking creature! Can’t think of anything worse than being captured by a group of schoolboys myself – I’m not surprised it reacted so strongly

  4. Robin Newman, Global Egg Donors says:

    Hi Jack,

    As a kid in the back country of Ojai we caught several Horny Toads who spurted blood from eyes too!

    I was beginning to doubt that recall until you mentioned it.

    I googled it about a coyote catching one-

    A stream of nasty-tasting blood squirts from the lizard’s eyes, straight into the coyote’s mouth. The coyote steps back, shaking its head from side to side in disgust. It retreats, wiping its muzzle, while the uninjured lizard skitters away to safety.

    To the disappointment of kids who want to see them squirt blood, horned lizards rarely squirt at humans. If you catch one, it will sit demurely in your palm. It won’t bite. It might hiss, or puff itself up at little. But only canids and felids like bobcats, are treated to a stream of foul-tasting blood.

    The blood squirt is far from their only trick. Horned lizards have evolved a unique arsenal of defences, which they use selectively to drive off the many predators that attack them. They might look like miniature Smaugs, but they need all the help they can get not to end up as dinner.

    There are 17 known species of horned lizard, all in the genus Phrynosoma. Most of them seem to be capable of squirting blood.

    Kind regards, Robin
    Robin Newman
    Founder & Director
    Robin@GlobalEggDonors.com

    Lets discuss your needs. This link shows my availability in your time zone. – http://meetme.so/globaleggdonors
    [logo5]

    “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – egg donor

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