I know, I know, the thorny devil (Moloch horridus) is a reptile, not an amphibian. However, I’m being accurate by being inaccurate, because Bullyland inexplicably categorised this figure in their ‘Amphibians’ collection. Perhaps ‘herpetofauna’ didn’t have the same ring to it, or ‘Reptiles and Amphibians’ was deemed too wordy. Or, since the animal also sometimes goes by the misleading nickname, ‘thorny toad’, that may explain the confusion.
This toy was retired in 2018, which is when I picked mine up, just in time, from the Hanover Museum in Germany. I always buy an animal figure as a souvenir whenever I visit a museum, so long as there’s a natural history section, because it is much more meaningful than buying toys online. It is great to be able to connect a figure to a specific experience or place, but opportunities to inspect toys before purchase from brick and mortar stores are becoming few and far between in the digital age. So, take those opportunities when they arise!
The thorny devil is native and endemic to Australia, where it specialises on feeding on ants. It has an array of defensive spines all over its body and a ‘false head’ on the back of its neck – a decoy for potential predators. These feature are all present in the Bullyland toy. The camouflage colours are sprayed on and convincing, except for the white rims around the eyes, which seem to be painted on with a brush, a little too heavily.
The Bullyland thorny devil is moderately sized at 10 cm long, so it is nearly life size: Moloch horridus grows up to about twice that length but only as old adults. The toy is posed in a ‘push up’ position with hind legs sprawled out and the arms less so, while the tail gently curves upwards so the tip is facing straight up. Thorny devils often adopt this tail pose, which is slightly reminiscent of a scorpion. Maybe it is to make them look more intimidating to predators. The mouth of the Bullyland figure is closed and picked out with a black line.
Bullyland has a distinctive style: their animal toys tent to be a little rubbery compared to other mainstream lines and the sculpting details are slightly less defined. In this toy the claws and spines are blunt, at least compared with the dangerously thorny living animal, but that makes sense for heath and safety reasons!
There are several other thorny devil toys on the market. We’ll no doubt review them all in due course so we can compare and contrast them all. For now, though, the Bullyland version is a pleasing representation of this spectacular lizard.