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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Texas Horned Lizard
(Phrynosoma cornutum)
by Herps of Texas

Diagnostic Features:

  • Flat, broad lizard.
  • Dark lines downward from eyes and across head.
  • Pointed snout and short tail.
  • Crown of spines on the back of the head, with the two center ones enlarged resembling horns.
  • Row of spines projecting from both sides of throat.
  • Two rows of spiny scales on sides of body.
  • Large spines on dorsal surface surrounded by dark pigment.
  • Keeled ventral scales.


  • Dorsal ground color varies with environment, but may be tan or gray with white and red or yellow tones.
  • The dorsal pattern consists of dark brown spots with pale posterior borders behind the head, on body, and tail on each side of light middorsal line.


Phyrnosoma cornutum reaches adult lengths of 6-10.5 cm (2.5-4.25 in).

General Distribution:

In North America, Phyrnosoma cornutum is found from Kansas to Louisiana through Texas to New Mexico and northern Mexico.


This diurnal lizard is quick, seeking shelter among the brush or in animal burrows. The Texas horned lizard may also cover itself in loose sand. This species is typically seen on warm days of late spring or summer, particularly in the first few hours after dawn and the hours just before dusk; hibernation is from late summer to the following spring. This species of horned lizard feeds on large ants and may squirt blood from its eyes under stress.

    Blood Shooting
        The Texas Horned Lizard may be small and brown and         plump but it has a way of defending itself that may         seem a little odd. But rather than just tell you this         crazy lizards self defense method just tell me how you         would react in this situation. You walk up to another         person and you’re mad at them when suddenly the         other person releases a steady stream of blood that         shoots five feet in front of them right at you. Well I         personally wouldn’t hang around and this is exactly the         reaction the Texas Horned Lizards predators take         when the lizard does this.


Breeding occurs in late spring upon emergence from hibernation. Females lay eggs (20-40) in burrows where they incubate for 40-50 days.


Phyrnosoma cornutum prefers warm, sandy, arid environments and is typically found in flat, open areas with little vegetation.

Conservation Status:

The Texas horned lizard is considered an threatened species by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is fully protected by the state.

Range Description:

The range extends from extreme southwestern Missouri and central Kansas to southeastern Colorado, and south and west throughout most of Oklahoma and Texas (including coastal barrier islands), eastern and southern New Mexico, and southeastern Arizona to northeastern Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango east of Sierra Madre Occidental, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas (Price 1990). Native eastern limit is uncertain; records for Missouri and Arkansas have been questioned (now extirpated from Arkansas; Trauth et al. 2004), and possibly the species is not native to Louisiana (Price 1990). This species has been introduced and is established in several areas in the southeastern United States, including North Carolina), Florida (Jensen 1994), and elsewhere (see Price 1990 for references).

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