For this post I am revisiting a figure that I originally discussed on the Animal Toy Forum here, the Safari Ltd Horned Frog from 1997! This figure has a few sources of mystery around it due to a few factors–first, the line it is part of. In the few places it is referenced online, it is referred to as a part of the Incredible Creatures line–this makes sense as it is nearly perfect 1:1 scale and has the typical hollow-cast design. The problem is that I don’t think the Incredible Creatures line existed back in the late 90s, and I have no idea if there is a different line that included these figures. Even the item number is a mystery…the only source is the TAI and it is given as 259929, which is apparently also the number for the very different Queen Triggerfish from the IC line. It doesn’t help that this figure only lasted for a single year, retiring in 1998.
Second mystery, there is some dispute about the species it represents! It was referred to as an Ornate Horned Frog by Safari, properly known as Ceratophrys ornata (Bell, 1843)[no relation!], but the morphology of the face, in particular the eye ‘horns’, could be more like C. cranwelli or even C. aurita (Cranwell’s and Brazilian horned frogs, respectively). Yet while the overall colouring and pattern is more broadly like C. ornata, all of these horned frog species can be quite variable. The most familiar species, however, is the ornate horned frog due to it’s popularity in the pet trade where it is known by several names such as Argentina horned frog or Pacman frog. Regardless, all of these species are similar in overall appearance and are especially notable for their wide, squat bodies, their ornate camouflage patterns, and their huge, gaping mouths.
Horned frogs, regardless of the potential species this figure indicates, are found in various parts of South America. They can be found variously is habitats such as rain forests or more grassy areas; the latter is preferred by the ornate horned frog. In all cases, horned frogs prefer to hunt by remaining still in ground cover and leaping out in ambush to take prey–and given the size of the frogs, and their mouths, that prey can be incredibly varied and large; everything from invertebrates to other amphibians to small mammals and reptiles–if it fits, or even if it doesn’t, they might try to squeeze it down!
So what can be said for the figure? Well, it’s big. As mentioned, pretty much life size. It is almost 12cm long snout-vent, while real ornate horned frogs range from 11.5-16 cm; the males are smaller, so if this figure is a ‘full grown’ one, it’s a boy! The figure is low and squat, with the legs tucked against the body in typical rest/hiding/not-doing-anything position. The pattern on the body is a mixture of symmetrical areas of green, brown and yellow, with darker spits throughout the body and legs. The skin is sculpted to be slightly warty, which reflects the real animal. There has been conversation as to whether this figure is a sculpt or a life cast, but I am pretty sure it is a sculpt; by the time of its production Safari generally didn’t use life-casts; I don’t know for sure if they ever did but I’m doubtful (although there were other companies that did).
The details on the figure are okay, although some elements are a little rough, such as the casting of the toes. As well, the eyes are more flat than would be expected for what should be the shiniest part of the body; an application of a glossy finish would have given them a more life-like appearance. And the ventral surface is…just a white pebbled surface. They kind of skipped out there. Ignoring that, in many ways this figure captures the overall look and size of a real ornate horned frog. But, as seen above, the horns are a little more prominent than would be expected. It is possible that some license would be taken to exaggerate the ‘horned’ aspect. Or the reference models used were different species/mislabeled species and the sculptor went with what looked good to them.
So who would want a figure like this? Anyone with an affinity for ‘herps’ in their collection, absolutely. It would also make a great model for a forest-floor diorama. Even better, a zoo could put it in a display with subdued lighting and, given that they don’t move much unless feeding, it would be nearly impossible to know it wasn’t alive! I have been around live ones, and they seriously don’t do anything. Unfortunately, getting this figure is very unlikely–they were only released for a year, and that was over 20 years ago! The only reason I have one is because I bought it for a friend who stood up with me at my wedding…and then years later he found it in a drawer and asked me to add it to my collection! But I don’t think I’ve ever seen one for sale since those days, and I don’t even know that many people with one. Too bad, because it’s a cool addition to the shelves! I guess people can make due with the ones from Colorata or Papo or whatever, but they’re smaller and it isn’t the same.