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African Bullfrog

The African Bullfrog goes by many names relating to its body size, continent of origin, and scientific name. The Pyxicephalus adspersus comes from southern African countries occupying dry savannah landscapes. This fossorial species is large in size and can be found in the pet trade and consumed for meat. 

African Bullfrog in its natural habitat

Common NameAfrican Bullfrog
Other NameGiant Bullfrog
South African Burrowing Frog
Pixie Frog 
Scientific NamePyxicephalus adspersus
LocationsSouthern Africa 
CharacteristicsLarge, stout body
ColorGreen, olive-green, yellow, gray
OriginAfrica, South Africa 
Conservation StatusLeast Concern 
FamilyPyxicephalidae
GeniusPyxicephalus
SpeciesP. adspersusP. edulus
PoisonousNo
Max LengthMales can reach 9 inches (23cm) in length 
Females can reach 4 inches (10cm) in length 
Max Weight1.4 kg (3 lb)
Lifespan45 years (captivity)

Geographical African Range  

African Bullfrogs, Giant Bullfrogs, Pixie Frogs, whatever you want to call them, originate in southern African countries. 

Their northern range starts in Tanzania, moves through Zambia and Zimbabwe, west to Namibia, central to Botswana, and ends in South Africa. 

Preferred Habitat

African Bullfrogs can be a little weird in the habitat they reside in. 

They are a fossorial species that spends ten months underground in the dry savannah. 

They burrow themselves into cocoons and only emerge after it rains heavily

African Bullfrog in its natural habitat

Dry landscapes pans will fill with water after significant rainfall. Air

This water is temporary, but long lasting enough for African Bullfrogs to emerge and begin breeding. 

They are tolerative of some habitat alteration if it allows them access to breeding pools. 

Threats and Current Conservation Status 

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories African Bullfrogs as a species of least concern. 

However, they were last assessed in 2013. 

It is thought that their population trend is decreasing. 

African Bullfrogs are not tolerant of urbanization and may be pushed out of their range if any occurs where they occupy. 

Typical Large Male African Bullfrog

Urbanization can encroach on their breeding grounds, destroying them or altering temporary water pools. 

Due to their large size, they are harvested for consumption by local people. 

Cooked frog legs can be a delicacy. 

They can also be harvested for the international pet trade, though this is not believed to be causing a decline to their population numbers. 

Coloration and Appearance

These are large frogs with broad heads and short, stout legs and fingers. 

Their feet have spades used for digging, being a fossorial species. 

Their dorsum can be a variety of colors, mostly green to a darker olive-green, brown, gray, or blue. 

Their bellies are white or creamy yellow colored. 

They have raised skin ridges on their backs that are usually white or creamy. 

Juveniles have a pale stripe that extends down their backs. 

Breeding males will display bright yellow regions on their forearms. 

Males will also have dark mottling on their throats, on the underside of their lower jaw. 

Breeding Behaviors  

African Bullfrogs emerge from underground after rainfalls deposit at least 65 mm of water to start breeding. 

They breed in shallow temporary pools and ditches. 

Do Frog Dads Really Protect Their Tadpoles?

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During the breeding season, these frogs are most active during the day. 

Males will congregate in leks to call for females from shallow water. 

The younger males gather in a small area while the larger males become territorial and attempt to chase each other off. 

Females will choose the most dominant male and lay between 3,000 to 4,000 eggs at the edge of the pond. 

Eggs are fertilized before reaching the water, and tadpoles emerge the second day after laying. 

The dominant male cares for the developing tadpoles

Males are Large and Aggressive 

We have already talked about the size of African Bullfrogs, but I want to make it apparent just how large they can grow to be. 

They can reach the size of a dinner plate. That’s huge! 

Male (top) and Female (Bottom) African Bullfrogs in Amplexus

Males will be larger than females. 

Full grown males are also more aggressive than females or younger males. 

They will fight one another, causing injury or killing each other. 

The dominant male in the breeding pool attempts to keep the others from breeding and usually end up breeding with the majority of the females. 

African Bullfrogs: A Pet Growing in Popularity  

Technically African Bullfrogs can be kept as pets, and are found in the international pet trade. 

Morph Market lists several individuals for sale. 

They are not a beginner frog species by any means. 

Their large size requires a large space and the correct substrate. 

Their aggressive nature makes them a potential hazard to inexperienced humans. 

They have projections around their teeth, allowing them to deliver a pretty nasty bite

Due to these few feats, they should not be taken lightly as a pet. 

Many zoologic facilities have them on display in reptile houses. 

A lot of them have been pictured with their buttcheeks on display as well, if you have ever seen those memes!

How to Find An African Bullfrog In the Wild

  • Visit southern Africa between November and March, when the rainy season is.

  • Wait until a heavy rainfall fills ponds across the landscape. 

  • Venture into the dry savannah to find temporary water pools created by the heavy rains. 

  • Search during the daytime, when they are most actively breeding. 

  • They’re a large size and gather in leks, so just keep your eyes peeled for fighting frogs!
  •   

Fun Facts About African bullfrogs! 

  • They are the largest amphibians in southern African countries.  

  • Males tend to grow to be significantly larger than females.  

  • Predators of tadpoles include turtles and monitor species. 

  • Birds prey on and eat adult frogs. 

  • African bullfrogs will eat just about anything. They can be cannibalistic, as their aggressive nature allows them to kill one another.  

  • They have a loud bellow and roar. 

  • The name “Pixie Frog” comes from their scientific name.  

Sources

AmphibiaWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://amphibiaweb.org

IUCN. 2022. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2. https://www.iucnredlist.org.

Kijani Kijani is an African Bullfrog. Its name means “green” in Swahili… Read more about Kijani. (n.d.). African bullfrog. Oregon Zoo. Retrieved from https://www.oregonzoo.org/discover/animals/african-bullfrog-0