Bulletin No. 56 New Series January, 1932
In Florida '
( I *'
.alph Stoutdm re .
State of Florida
Department of Agriculture
NATHAN MAYO, Comm-isinwr
14 14Ill q Ratw-,Ii,
DEFAkI'iENT OF AGRICULTURE
j ikmilbj C]N uiiuke of Adculture, TaIlahanuee
Bullfrog Farming and Frogging
By RALPH STOUTAMIRE
B ULLFROG farming and wild frogging are fascinating
enterprises. In Florida little if any of the former has
been done, but the killing or catching of wild bullfrogs
for marketing has been done on rather extensive scales in
certain areas. What promise to be modestly successful farms
are now under way or are contemplated. Farmers at many
points in the state have hunted wild frogs during slack periods
as a source of additional income. After a limited study of the
possibilities, the author feels this word of information to
those interested in the business is justified.
RAISING BULLFROGS ARTIFICIALLY
But he who would attempt to raise frogs is warned against
"counting eggs before they are laid." Too frequently those
who become enthused over a new and untried enterprise fig-
ure on nothing but income. They contemplate nothing but
success and good fortune. Mistakes, obstacles, loss of money,
handicaps-common to all undertakings of a business nature
-do not enter into their reckonings. Before you buy land
and provide or improve a frog pond, build fences and buy
breeding stock, remember there will be figures to place on
the debit side of your ledger. Caution is an early and pri-
The main equipment of the frog farm is a shallow area of
water. A shallow pond which never goes dry and which is
from a quarter of an acre to an acre In area would be suitable,
though several small ponds close together would be better.
Ponds should be surrounded by woodland or brush, as frogs
range on land as well as in water.
SIt is suggested that you divide the pond (if you use but
one) into four areas by means of two close-mesh wire or
cypress.board fences which cross at right angles at the center
of the pond. Those parts of the fences which bound one of
the quarters must be of very fine mesh or, better, of close-
fitting cypress boards, as this area is for spawning and the
tadpole age. Shallow ponds are desirable because of the ease
of seining for tadpoles and frogs. as well as making it easier
to remove fish, snakes and turtles which are destructive
natural enemies of the frog at all its ages.
Another advantage of shallow water lies in the fact that
water plants will be more abundant, thus providing hiding
places and shade for the frogs and furnishing a constant
4 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
source of feed to those organisms upon which frogs feed.
But remember the pond, while it should be shallow, must
never go dry. A spring, windmill or pump can be utilized to
insure a steady supply of water.
Trees surrounding the water provide shade, which, besides
helping to hide the frogs, temper the atmosphere against too
much heat or cold. All of this means greater insect life,
which in turn means more feed for the frogs.
It is advisable to secure breeding stock from some success-
ful raiser. Rana catesbiana is considered the most successful
breed. Lamar Warren of Palatka, who is a bullfrog enthusi-
ast, has bought breeders from Louisiana. Mature cultivated
frogs weigh as much as 5 pounds each in some cases, and they
may cost from $3 to $15 a pair-male and female. A wild
mature frog seldom ever weighs more than 2 pounds. Culti-
vated breeds probably will be as large at two years of age as
wild ones are at four years.
Fig. 1. "fHis Majesty, the King of the Canebrakes." One of the few
times the "king" has posed for the photographer. Note the..Lanled
brown front and hind legs; these stamp this wild bullfrog as one of the
most valuable for meat purposes.
June is the mating season. The eggs appear by the thou-
sands as floating gelatine-like masses. One mass may con-
tain as many as 30,000 eggs. A week or so after the first
appearance of the eggs, perhaps 15.000 or 20,000 little tad-
poles will wiggle away from the egg mass. Within a year
many tadpoles will be 5 inches long. Within two years they
will be marketable frogs, though four years is said to be the
age of maturity. However, a frog may live to be 25 or 30
ti~t te kil hr osd orte hoofshr. ia!006 mtto
BULLFROG FARMING IN FLORIDA 5
Frogs are cannabalistic. For this reason different sizes
have to be kept separated. After the tadpole stage, or the
second year, remove to pen No. 2. The third year they should
be in pen No. 3 and the fourth in No. 4. They are then mature
and may breed. For best prices frogs should not be butch-
ered until they are two years old, when they should weigh
approximately 2 pounds each. As a matter of best practice,
no doubt, most frogs will be marketed before the breeding
age. This important and necessary function more properly
should be left to individuals bought or selected for the
Some raisers do not divide their farm (pond) as has been
suggested above. However, this or some other plan which
provides protection to the smaller frogs against their larger
brothers should be adopted. Such separation offers the addi-
tional advantage of confining into closer quarters tadpoles
and frogs, which aids the farmer in catching or handling
them. Also it is not necessary to disturb tadpoles or young
frogs when catching other frogs for market.
The feed and feeding problem is perhaps the easiest. Water
bugs, crayfish, wiggle-tails, minnows and other matter grow-
ing in the water and surrounding it furnish the main diet,
of frogs. They also feed on flies and other insects, catching
this food with their little, sticky, forked tongues which dart
back and forth from their mouths with lightning-like speed.
An electric light or lantern over the frog pond will attract
bugs at night by the thousands.
The frog has many enemies. Fish, snakes and turtles have
been mentioned. Hawks, herons (commonly called cranes)
cats, skunks, in fact all the birds and animals of prey, take
their toll of the frog farmer, unless he takes extreme precau
Especially interesting and instructive on this subject is a
bulletin recently issued by Southern Biological Supply Co.
Inc., of New Orleans, La. (Author, Percy Vicosa, Jr.) Ever
though it means some repetition, the following is quoted
"Bullfrogs should be kept only in ponds, swamps or reser
voirs which are free from game fish, snakes, turtles or othe
animals likely to destroy their eggs or tadpoles, the youn;
frogs themselves, or the organisms upon which they feed
The water should not be deeper than is necessary to protect
them from the heat in summer and from freezing during th
hibernating period in winter. If sufficient shade is provided
twelve to eighteen inches is deep enough in the southern
portion of the United States. In colder climates, at least par
of the pond should be deeper than the greatest depth of th
6 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
winter ice sheet. The shallower the water, the easier it will
be to keep it free from game fish and other enemies, and
besides the animals upon-which frogs feed thrive best in
"The bullfrog is a shoreline creature and every effort
should be made to increase theTietth of the shoreline. For
growing or adult frogs, a number of sma-ilponds is better
than a large one, and elongated ponds or even a series of
parallel ditches provide a greater shoreline than a round
pond. While with frogs, the number that can be maintained
in a given area is proportional to the length of the shoreline,
the tadpoles, on the other hand, require more water, and
the number that can be reared is proportional to the pond
area. . .
"Breeding ponds should cover an area of about 10,000
square feet for 12 pairs of frogs. Mating is promiscuous,
and usually takes place during the late spring or early sum-
mer. The eggs are laid while the frogs are clasping and if
normal should float in a sheet at the surface of the water.
The bullfrog egg mass covers from five to ten square feet.
The eggs hatch usually within three days.
"A pond of 10.000 square feet will produce on an average
about 10,000 full-sized tadpoles in one to two years, depend-
ing upon the climate and the amount of organic food in the
water. The water should contain submerged water plants
in the deepest places for purifying and oxygenating the water
and arrowheads or cattails for shade near the banks. These
plants also serve as food for the tadpoles and for the organ-
isms upon which the frogs feed. Abundant shade, especially
along the banks, is necessary, hence sloping banks, shaded
by overhanging cypress, willow, buttonbush, flags (Iris), etc.,
are desirable. A cypress or tupelo brake can be made into an
ideal frog farm, provided it can be drained periodically to
remove game fish and other enemies before the eggs are laid.
"Since the adult frogs will feed upon tadpoles or young
frogs, they should be removed some time after the eggs have
'hatched, but not sooner, unless it can be done without dis-
turbing the egg masses. It is usually a good plan to remove
them after the breeding season, one to three months after the
first eggs are laid, or after the males cease bellowing alto-
gether. Another good plan is to breed the frogs in smaller
areas or incubator pens, using the tadpoles to stock larger
ponds free from adult or growing frogs. Water lilies are
excellent in such incubator pens, as the frogs like to spawivn
amongst them, but the tadpoles grow best amongst the other
types of plants mentioned above.
"Bullfrogs spend the greater part of the summer on the
BULLFROG FARMING IN FLORIDA 7
banks at the edge of the water, from which position they can
jump at the moving organisms upon which they prey. They
will eat only living organisms, which they swallow whole.
They prey chiefly on crayfish, water bugs, beetles, small fish,
small frogs, tadpoles and any of the small creatures generally
found in ponds and ditches. They will take butterflies,
dragonflies and other insects on the wing if opportunity pre-
sents. The largest bullfrogs prefer insects, fish and crayfish
measuring from one to three inches long, and seldom leap at
anything under one-half inch. As they can not stand dry
heat, their habits are chiefly nocturnal, especially during
"The best rule to follows to imitate a natural swamp, pond
or marsh lagoon in which bullfrogs are known to thrive, keep
game fish, snakes and other enemies out, and propagate and
encourage food forms such as crayfish, greenfrogs, surface
minnows, water bugs, tadpoles, etc. Keep the different sizes
separated, as a frog can swallow anything that will fit in its
mouth. Provide both shade and sun, pure water and wide
sloping banks. A windmill or pump can be used to maintain
a constant level in the field, similar to rice culture. Provide
snake and vermin-proof fences."
FROGGING OR CATCHING WILD BULLFROGS
Interest has mounted high in several vicinities of the state
in catching wild frogs for market. Wauchula in Hardee
County has won for itself no little publicity because of the
thousands of pounds of frogs caught and shipped by persons
engaged in the business in that county. Gene Plowden, asso-
ciate editor of the Florida Advocate at Wauchula, has become
enthusiastic about frogging as carried on by local persons.
He has made a close study of the business and kept a close
check on the catch during the summer of 1931. From June
23 to October 14, shipments from Wauchula totaled 29,000
pounds. This was an average of almost 2,000 pounds a week.
As a wild bullfrog seldom weighs more than 2 pounds, even
the pessimistic must admit this is a lot of frogs. And it must
have taken a lot of music out of Hardee County. However,
it is Mr. Plowden's opinion that there is no immediate danger
of exterminating the frog population in his county.
Moore Haven, Okeechobee, Belle Glade, Arcadia, Ocala and
Palatka are a few other communities in the state where wild
frogging has attracted attention and been engaged in. In
most instances the work has been done by farmers who are
not especially busy during summer months. The enterprise
has merely afforded them an opportunity to pick up a little
8 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Extra money. What seems to be the record catch for one
night is held by a hunter from near Fort Green, near Wau-
chula. It was 168 pounds. In four nights four men, also near
SWauchula, brought in 1,600 pounds of frogs. This seems to
be another record.
Fig. 2. Frog hunters in the Wauchula vicinity. Note the head lights.
also frog-carrying sack (with draw string) on hip of man at reader's
right. Gigs or spears are attached at lower ends of the canes carried
by the men.
Frogging is done by searchlight, as the gorgeously lumi-
nous eyes of the bullfrog easily give away its location in the
dark. The light also blinds it, making it easy for the hunter
to gig it or strike it with a contraption much like a fly swatter.
The swatter has the advantage of merely stunning the frog
so it may be caught alive, but it is awkward to use among
brush and weeds. The gig or speak seems to be most prac-
tical. A skilled hunter gigs the frog in its webbed feet, and
thus only slightly injures it. Wounding in the body or legs
is to be avoided. Shooting, besides being expensive, is dan-
gerous, in that too often the frog is killed and its body torn
up. An accompanying illustration shows hunters equipped
with searchlights and gigs.
At the end of a hunt the catch is taken to a central location.
usually a shipping point, where the frogs are dressed and
packed in ice for shipment. Hunting is done at night, and
frog buyers usually cover their territory daily, gathering up
the previous night's catches and hauling them to the dressing
The first dressing operation is chopping off the head with a
sharp hatchet. Sometimes the skin is peeled off, but most
BULLFROG FARMING IN FLORIDA 9
markets prefer that skins he left on, as the kind of frog most
preferred can be easily identified by its skin, which should
be a mottled brown. Sometimes the entire body is discarded
and only the hind legs, commonly called "saddles," are
shipped. Still some markets want their frogs alive. In this
case live frogs are packed in ice and shipped whole. Upon
arrival they are allowed to thaw out and become as alive and
active as ever.
One experienced shipper says some restaurants desire that
the walls of the stomach or belly be left on the dressed legs.
Dressing or seasoned food material is stuffed into this belly
flap, which is then sewed up and cooked. The frog legs are,
thus, served with dressing.
.. .* .. *.*.i,-.^
Fig. 3. Butchering or dressing and packing station. Note various
tools used in these operations.
Pictures in this publication illustrate butchering, packing
and shipping. The shipment, be it saddles, half frogs, whole
frogs (less entrails) or live frogs, is packed in ice much as fish
or other game-layers of ice and frogs alternating.
Many restaurants are objecting to cold storage frogs on the
grounds that they are tough and undesirable for restaurants
or hotel use. This, of course, puts a premium on fresh ship-
ments. And the frog man who is within easy reach of a good
market, the orders of which he can fill quickly, should have a
good thing. But naturally something more than availability
to a market is necessary. One must cultivate customers
carefully and religiously strive to please. For, as true as the
10 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
tides is the maxim, "Satisfied customers mean more busi-
MARKETS AND MARKETING
Lamar Warren says the demand for frog legs in Jackson-
ville during the 1931 summer was about 500 pounds a week,
while the supply was only about 150 pounds. All of the
larger hotels and restaurants were demanding saddles at even
a dollar a pound. He sold all he could get at 75 cents a pound.
Gene Plowden says hunters are paid from 10 to 18 cents a
pound for frogs. The average hunter, in his opinion, where
frogs are reasonably plentiful, can make from $5 to $15 a
night. However, it is not difficult to imagine how quickly
wild frogs would be exterminated fall farmers turned from
beans, corn, cucumbers and oranges to catching frogs in the
hope of making this much money every night, six nights out
of the week, the year around. Of course, such is out of the
question. Mr. Plowden says frog legs bring 35 cents a pound
and up. Besides near-by Florida markets, such cities as
Atlanta, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit
and Asheville are ordering frogs from Florida shippers.
The frog farmer has not only meat markets to rely upon,
but he may derive income from sale of breeders and tadpoles.
Tadpoles have been known to sell for as much as 10 cents each
to persons who raised them to frogs for meat purposes. Much
that has been said above in connection with butchering, pack-
ing and shipping is based on the practice of wild frog dealers,
but it is applicable to the marketing of frogs raised on the
frog farm. However, the frog farmer in most cases will
develop his own special customers and have his own special
butchering and shipping methods.
Recently the Florida State Marketing Bureau issued a let-
ter to frog shippers and catchers, in which suggestions for
dressing and shipping are offered. It was written more par-
ticularly for the shipper of wild frogs. In part this letter
"There is a good demand in most of the larger markets for
frogs: jumboes, 10 to 12 pounds per dozen; mediums, 8 to 9%
pounds per dozen; small frogs, 53,4 to 7% pounds per dozen;
baby frogs, 83 to 5 pounds per dozen. Frogs averaging less
than 38 pounds per dozen are not wanted and, of course, the
best demand is for the jumbocs and mediums. Dealers com-
plain that some shippers send frogs weighing no more than 1
ounce which of course are worthless and a total loss to the
shipper. As frogs are sold by the piece or dozen, they should
be graded and run uniform in size. Extra large, medium and
BULLFROG FARMING IN FLORIDA 11
small frogs should not be mixed to make the average weight,
for jumboes or mediums, for instance, but classified accord-
ing to the weight requirements of the different grades to
which they belong.
"The trade usually requires that frogs be dressed as fol-
lows: Head chopped off, skin and legs left on. with entrails
and all refuse matter drawn out. Frogs should not be broken
and the bellies should not be cut down through the shanks as
Fig. 4. Packed in ice and now on the way to restad-ants or hotels in,
perhaps, New York, Philadelphia, or any other of many large American
it is only necessary to cut far enough down to properly re-
move the entrails. In packing, frogs should be packed with
the belly, or the opening made to remove the entrails, down
in order that the water will not 'cup up' in the frog or sour
it in transit.
"Frogs packed in barrels or boxes should be heavily iced;
layers of ice on bottom, in center and top of barrel. If shipped
in boxes, they should be heavily paper-lined with plenty of
ice in bottom, center and top of the container.
"The Florida State Marketing Bureau will supply a list of
reputable dealers who are in the market for frogs of uniform
size and weight, properly prepared, packed and shipped.
Anyone contemplating frog marketing should thoroughly
familiarize himself with the requirements of the trade in the
different markets before shipping."
12 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
There are different varieties of frogs, even in the wild, but
the salable kind are big, spotted fellows whose mottled brown
color makes them difficult to find except at night when their
eyes will shine in a bright light. The darker the night the
An official publication must stick to the known facts.
Frankly, there is little If any scientific data available on the
cultivation of frogs in this state. No official research has
been made of thb business. However, the possibilities of such
an enterprise must be recognized. And while not consciously
trying to encourage persons in the state and elsewhere to
endmoney and energy in what is an unproved enterprise,
the Florida Dertment of Agriculture is glad to offer to the
interested such information as is available on the subject.
Those who contemplate engaging in this business are again
warned that too often beginners weigh too carelessly or has-
tily both sides of the question until they have spent and, fre-
quently, lost money. Perhaps they weigh only one side of the
question. Will ftggin requires practically no investment,
but frog farmingdoes require some. While it seems the
necessary investment is light, it is the experience of all busi-
nesses that always there are more expenses than the wisest
manager can foresee. Therefore, go into this undertaking
with your e p nud (ars open. And remember it will be two
yeas 'at least before you can expect any income from your
busLnessi ih.ydul Oie'depending on marketing for meat pur-
Frogs are great destroyers of insects. There has been leg-
islation in some countries against wholesale destruction of
frogs. The bullfrog is an amphibious quadruped. Arid coun-
tries have no bullfrogs. Swampy lands breed the insects that
frogs feed on. Where artificial ponds or lakes are provided
for the purpose of breeding frogs there is a different attitude
toward the commercialization of frogs from that of butcher-
ing them from natural lakes. No one protests when lakes are
drained and car loads of frogs are destroyed. In such in-
stances need for the frogs goes with the drainage.