The short-horned lizard is often referred to as a “horned toad” or “horny toad” because its squat, flattened shape and short, blunt snout give it a toad-ish look. There are over a dozen recognized species found in the deserts and semi-arid environments of North and Central America, from southern Canada to Guatemala.
Species are distinguishable by the formidable crown of horns adorning their head and the numerous spines across their back. In order to ward off hungry predators, short-horned lizards are capable of inflating their bodies up to twice their size, resembling a spiny balloon. And if this proves insufficient, some species employ one of the animal kingdom’s most bizarre defensive mechanisms: They shoot blood from their eyes. The ominous squirting blood emanates from ducts in the corners of their eyes and can travel a distance of up to three feet.
Over recent decades short-horn lizard populations have been in decline throughout their range. Destruction of their native habitat, efforts to eradicate ants—their staple food—and the pet trade have all contributed to this.