When I stumbled across this frog, I knew right away that I had to blog about it. There’s just no way a frog this strange could be left out of this blog. So without further ado, let’s talk about the hairy frog, which is also known as the horror frog, or wolverine frog. Why this is will soon become clear.

Hairy frogs are found in southwest Africa, from Cameroon to Angola. Like most frogs, they love water, and are generally found near fast-flowing rivers. These can be located in habitats ranging from tropical rainforests to cultivated lands, such as tea plantations.

A preserved hairy frog specimen, showing the male’s hair-like projections.
Image by Gustavocarra, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hairy frogs are reasonably large, reaching 11 cm in length, with males being much larger than females. They are brown in colour, with irregular black spots on their bodies. One of the strangest features of hairy frogs is their feet, which have ‘claws’.

These claws are where the ‘horror’ and ‘wolverine’ names come from. You see, the claws don’t always stick out of the frogs’ feet. For the most part, the claws are simply bumps at the tip of the frogs’ fingers. When they are threatened, hairy frogs will force these bones through their skin, by breaking their own toes. Once the threat has passed, the claws retract, and the tissues eventually heal. Just like Wolverine. But much less attractive.

The ‘hairy’ part of the frog’s name comes from strange, hair-like papillae that grow on the sides of breeding males. These are thought to increase oxygen absorption, something the males need while they guard their eggs underwater. These ‘hairs’ have the added function of making the frogs look very very odd, which always scores points on this blog.

Thankfully the hairy frog has not yet become endangered, though it is threatened by habitat loss. I’m glad something with its ridiculous appearance and badass way of defending itself is still around in abundance for us to admire.