Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard

  • Scientific Name: Phrynosoma douglasii
  • Niimíipuu Name: ’ap’ap’áap’ap (lizard

Image of Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard


The Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard is a medium-sized lizard with a toad-like appearance. They have round and flat bodies, short legs, blunt snouts, and a short and rectangular tail. Pygmy Short-Horned Lizards are cryptic, meaning they can camouflage to the environment around it. Usually, they will be soil colors since they burrow into soil. From their shout to the beginning of their tails, they tend to be about 3 inches long. And in this species, females tend to be larger than males.

Pygmy Short-Horned Lizards live in shrub-steppe habitats such as sagebrush deserts, juniper woodlands, and open coniferous forests. They prefer sandy soils, since they are easier to burrow themselves into, but will also be found on rocky soils.

Diagram showing characteristics of Pygmy Short-Horned LizardsFor the most part, Pygmy Short-Horned Lizards eat ants, but they also eat beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and sowbugs. Young lizards only eat ants, but adult lizards will vary their diet. Adults are active in the middle of the day during spring and fall but stay inactive in the summer because of the high temperatures. In the spring after they emerge from inactivity, mating occurs.

Image of Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard

Nez Perce Mythology:

The Nez Perce considered the horned lizard to be a weather-changer and doctor. It was said that if the Nez Perce disrespected the horned lizard, then winter would return during root digging season, making the ground too hard to dig into. The Nez Perce also believed the horned lizard could cure the ill or injured by blowing short puffs of healing breath.

The Pygmy-Short Horned Lizard (Phyrnosoma douglasii) are found in the northwest United States, primarily in ID, WA, and OR along the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail. They are nicknamed “horny toads”, because they resemble toads, but they are reptiles. The Pygmy-Short Horned Lizard is often mistaken for its close relative, the Greater Short-Horned Lizard, but is smaller and the Greater Short-Horned Lizards lives in Nevada and North and South Dakota. 


Idaho Fish & Game. Pygmy Short-horned Lizard. April 2021.

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Lizards and Skinks. April 2021.

Sonneck, V & Angel Sobotta. Nimipuutimt Volume 4. April 2021.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phyrnosoma douglasii). April 2021.