American Bullfrog

Lithobates catesbeianus (formerly Rana catesbeiana)


Image of American Bullfrog
MDC Staff

Ranidae (true frogs) in the order Anura (frogs)


The bullfrog is Missouri’s largest frog; it ranges from green to olive to brown. The back may have small brown spots or dark, indistinct, irregular blotches. The hind legs are marked with distinct dark brown bars. The belly is white, and the throat may have some gray mottling. The external eardrum is large and round. On adult males this tympanum is much larger than the eye; on females, it’s about the same size as the eye. This species has been known to reach 8 inches from snout to vent. Call is a deep, sonorous “jug-a-rum, jug-a-rum” that can be heard from half a mile away or more.


Length (snout to vent): 3 to 6 inches.


Video of American bullfrogs in the wild.


Bullfrog sits amid foliage on the side of a trail.
Bullfrog near the MKT Trail in Columbia, MO

American Bullfrog

Frog emerging from an algae-covered pond. Bits of algae are sticking to it.
American Bullfrog
Bullfrog at Eberwein park, Chesterfield, MO
Habitat and conservation

The bullfrog is our most aquatic species of frog. Individuals spend most of their time in or very near lakes, ponds, rivers, large creeks, sloughs, and permanent swamps or marshes. Because permanent water is required, bullfrog populations can suffer during drought years. When disturbed, bullfrogs escape by powerful jumps into the water. Young bullfrogs will often give out a short, high-pitched yelp as they leap to safety. Bullfrogs sometimes move overland during heavy summer rains.


Bullfrogs will try to eat just about any moving creature they can get their mouths around. The size and age of the frog, the season, and the type of habitat influence their diet. Frogs in farm ponds have different foods available than ones in impoundments or in rivers. In general, foods include insects, spiders, crayfish, fish, amphibians, birds, and even small mammals. Bullfrogs commonly eat other frogs, and they don’t hesitate to eat their own kind.

American Bullfrog Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri



Common. The American bullfrog is a game animal in Missouri and is protected by a season and bag limit. Consult the Wildlife Code of Missouri for regulations.

Life cycle

In Missouri, bullfrogs are active from late March to October. To overwinter, they burrow into bottom mud of rivers or ponds. Breeding is in mid-May to early July. Males are highly territorial and physically aggressive to each other as they defend calling stations. Eggs are laid in shallow water in a wide, floating mass. Females can lay over 20,000 eggs per clutch; these hatch in 4–5 days. Tadpoles turn into froglets in about 11–14 months, but adult size isn’t reached for another 2–3 years.

Human connections

The bullfrog is the official Missouri State Amphibian. The legs are edible and considered by many to be a delicacy — which in common language means “good eating!” Bullfrogs are classed as game animals in Missouri and are protected by a season and bag limit under the state’s Wildlife Code.

Ecosystem connections

Although these large, powerful amphibians will gulp down practically any creature that will fit in their mouths, they also become food for many other organisms. Even if female bullfrogs lay about 20,000 eggs, most of the eggs, tadpoles, and froglets are chomped by other animals.