As a kid we called them horny toads, but that is no longer acceptable terminology. Times change. Aside from sexual innuendo, they're not toads at all. They're super-special, fat, spiky lizards. Note the thorny Elizabethan collar and devil horns.
Nowadays I try to keep my hands off the Horned Lizards, let them be free, but oh my fingers itch to hold one whenever I spot it. They're slower than your average lizard, relying on thorny edges to deter most predators. The slowness and the fact that they're so darned cute makes them attractive to preschoolers and old farts alike. Well, at least this one.
I have a confession. Horned Lizards were the thing that clinched the deal on our cabin in the Coulter Pine, chaparral outside Lake Hughes, California. When two or three of them wandered across our path as we walked the property the day we first saw the place, I turned to my husband and said, "This feels like home." And it was, for 14 wonderful years!
The story is, if you harass them, they'll spit blood from their eyes, but I've never seen it in all my harassing. The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum confirms, though, that "several species can rupture small capillaries around their eyes and squirt a bloody solution at would-be predators," so it must be true.
If you're wandering the desert or chaparral be sure to keep your eyes open for these little cuties. They're hard to spot, generally so still and camouflaged. And you sure don't want to step on one!