Horror Frog: Profile and Information

Horror Frog

Horror frog, also known as a hairy frog or wolverine frog, is a frog characterized by its hair-like structures on the body of the males. What makes it more unique is the fact it purposes breaks its bones and protrudes them as claws.

This is a unique method of defence that is unlikely among amphibians.

This fascinating animal is scientifically known as Trichobatrachus robustus from the family Arthroleptidae within the genus Trichobatrachus. It is native to Central Africa and is known to be monotypic. While a few people may domesticate them as pets, others see them as snacks.

Scientific classification

Order Anura
SpeciesT. robustus
Binomial nameTrichobatrachus robustus

Characteristics of horror frogs

Male horror frogs are only but four to five inches long (which is about 10 – 13 cm). However, the females are about 3 – 4 inches long (which is about 8 – 11 cm). The head of the horror frog appear large but are much broader than long.

They also have a short-rounded snout. The males possess a pair of internal vocal sac and three short ridges of small black spines along the inner surface of the first manual digit. They also have small lungs, and hair-like structures, which allows them more capacity to mate during mating season in the water.

During mating seasons, the breeding males develop hair-like structures (containing arteries) on their thighs and backs. This physical characteristic is believed to help them in absorbing more oxygen from the environment.

This structure has been compared with the external gills that they possessed when they are at their aquatic stage. This is because the males remain in the water with the eggs after the females have laid them.

Reproduction in horror frogs

Horror frogs are terrestrial animals that occasionally go back to the water to breed. Their eggs are laid on rocks in streams. Male horror frogs stay with the laid eggs longer than the females.  

Tadpoles appear to be quite muscular, and they are known to be carnivorous. At that stage, they already have several rows of horned teeth. They progress until the adult stage where they feed on spider, beetles, myriapods, grasshoppers and slugs.

The bone-breaking mechanism

Horror Frog

Horror frogs are widely known for how they intentionally break their bones to protrude claws. These claws are made of bones, unlike actual claws that are made of keratin. There is a muscle that is connected to each bone of the limbs of a horror frog.

This muscle can be made to contract, breaking the bones which are later pushed out through the skin as claws. This is a deliberate action that is believed to be used for defence. 

Research has shown that when a horror frog is attacked, it breaks off its bones. The sharpened bones are projected out of the body as claws. However, whether or not the bones are retracted is unknown.

Most experts believe that since they can do that when they feel threatened, then they can also retract the bones when they feel safe. They believe that after retraction, healing of the broken and damaged tissues follows.

This is only hypothesis since the retraction mechanism is not yet unknown.

Habitat of horror frogs

Horror frogs are native to central Africa and are also found in western African countries including Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and possibly Angola.

Their natural inhabitant is tropical or subtropical moist lowland forests, rivers, arable land, plantations, and heavily degraded former forest where both their tadpoles and adults feed on smaller invertebrates.


This species is threatened due to loss of habitat, but they are not considered as endangered species. They face serious threats not only because they are being hunted and eaten, but the unpleasant changes in their habitats play a significant role in their decline.

This is due to water pollution that kills more horror frogs than hunting predators do. Yet, they are not considered endangered according to “The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources” that listed them as least concerned.

Relationship of horror frogs with humans

Very few people tend to keep this animal as pets while many eat them.

In Cameroon, horror frogs are being hunted with machetes and long spear before being roasted and eaten. The Bakossi tribe believe that horror frogs are divine.

They believe that they fall from the sky and can help make childless couple fertile when they are eaten.

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