Texas Horned Lizard

Phrynosoma cornutum


Photo of a Texas horned lizard camouflaged against a tan, gravelly substrate.
The Texas horned lizard is stocky and short-tailed, with several large “horns” protruding from the back of the head.
Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org
Species of Conservation Concern

Phrynosomatidae (fence and horned lizards) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)


A stocky, short-tailed lizard with several large “horns” protruding from the back of the head. Generally tan, grayish brown, or reddish brown, with brown spots on the back. The scales on the limbs, sides, and tail are large and pointed, and the head is heavily armored with large scales, some modified to form hornlike projections. They are harmless and never try to bite. They defend themselves by puffing up their bodies with air to look larger, or they can eject a small amount of blood from the inner corners of each eye to confuse a predator.


Adult total length: 2-4 inches.


Photo of a Texas horned lizard standing on a person's outstretched hand.
Texas Horned Lizard
A Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri, the Texas horned lizard is now limited to just a few southwestern counties.
Habitat and conservation

Texas horned lizards live in dry, open habitats with sparse vegetation and sandy or loose soil and an abundance of rocks. They are sometimes seen along the edges of dirt or gravel roads. Best observed on sunny mornings, when they bask in open areas.


The favorite food is ants, though other insects and spiders are also eaten. Because of its specialized diet and need for high temperatures, this species is difficult to keep in captivity.

image of Texas Horned Lizard Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Limited to the far southwestern corner of the state.


A Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri, the Texas horned lizard once lived in several southwestern counties, but it is now limited to just a few counties bordering with Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Life cycle

This species is active all day, as long as the sun is out and the temperature high. They’re active from April to September. When inactive, they seek shelter just below the soil surface. After courtship, about 20 eggs are laid in loose soil, and incubation can last up to two months. Hatchlings are only about 1¼ inches long.

Human connections

This species offers several marvels for human observers. It can squirt blood from its eyes as a defense, and it can also collect rainwater from its back: When it rains, the lizard raises its back, and water is channeled toward the head; the lizard drinks the water as it collects.

Ecosystem connections

A lizard that specializes in eating ants naturally helps to limit their populations. Meanwhile, the pointy defensive scales and blood-squirting behaviors are ways this lizard tries to survive attacks from its predators, such as coyotes, foxes, and predatory birds.