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Pickerel Frog vs Leopard Frog: The Differences (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Pickerel Frog vs Leopard Frog - Featured Image

The Pickerel frog and the Leopard frog are very similar and often confused, but they are distinctly different. The Leopard frog isn’t a specific frog, but the common name for a genus of frogs that includes the various Leopard frog species—Lithobates. The Pickerel frog is merely one of the species, though it has some unique traits that set it apart from many other Leopard frog species.

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Visual Differences

Pickerel Frog vs Leopard Frog - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – leoleobobeo, Pixabay | Right – AustinCountyNewsOnline, Pixabay

At a Glance

Pickerel Frog
  • Origin: North America
  • Size: 1.8–3 inch
  • Lifespan: 5–8 years
  • Domesticated?: Semi
Leopard Frog
  • Origin: North to South America
  • Size: 4.5 in
  • Lifespan: 4–6 years
  • Domesticated?: Semi

Pickerel Overview

The Pickerel frog is a North American frog species with patterns of squares, which are often confused with the Leopard frog’s spots. They belong to the Lithobates genus, which shares many of the Leopard frog species.

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)
Image Credit: Jason Patrick Ross, Shutterstock

Characteristics & Appearance

Pickerel frogs are medium sized and gray or tan with “hand-drawn” squares down their back. This is what gets them confused with other Leopard frogs, but the latter typically has circular spots. Pickerel frogs also have prominent ridges, and an orange or yellow flash pattern found the inside of the hind legs. They don’t have webbed toes, which is an adaptation to live on land.

Pickerel frogs are sexually dimorphic, with females being the larger and darker of the two sexes. During mating, the males get swollen thumbs and sing to the females. Other than mating behavior, the males and females are virtually identical and difficult to sex.


The Pickerel frog is found in North America from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick, west through Southern Quebec and Ontario, To Michigan, Wisconsin, and southeastern Minnesota along the Mississippi Drainage to the Gulf Coast in eastern Texas. They’re also found in the eastern US from New England south to Georgia. Though a native species, Pickerel frogs are legal to keep as pets in certain areas if they come from breeders.

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Leopard Frog Overview

The Leopard frog is a generic name for a number of Lithobates species that share a similar leopard-like pattern of brown or green. The various Leopard frog species range from the south of Canada to the North of Mexico.

close up of a northern leopard frog
Image Credit: Bernell, Pixabay

Characteristics & Appearance

The appearance of the Leopard frog varied by the specific species, but most of these frogs are brown or green with spots that form a leopard pattern. Each of the species in the genus display different behavioral traits, appearances, and distribution.

Most Leopard frogs are semiaquatic. Like the Pickerel, Leopard frogs display sexual dimorphism with a slightly larger male. During mating, the male Leopard frog will use its vocal sacs for mating calls.


The various species of Leopard frogs extend from the Hudson Bay in Canada throughout the US to Mexico and some parts of Central and South America. Many of the species have limited distribution, such as the Atlantic Coast Leopard frog that’s exclusive to the northern part of the Eastern Seaboard. Conversely, the Browebuenn’s Leopard frog’s habitat extends from Mexico to Guatemala to Hondura. Other species are limited to certain parts of the US or Canada. Depending on the area and whether the frog is native, it may be legal to keep as a pet if it’s sourced from a breeder.

What Are the Differences Between Pickerel Frog & Leopard Frog?

The Pickerel frog is one species of the Leopard frog, which is a common name for members of the Lithobates genus. This is a diverse genus with a range of species that display different traits and characteristics, the Pickerel frog included. They all display sexual dimorphism with a larger female, distinct mating calls, and limited distribution, though the entirety of the genus extends from North America to parts of South America.

One of the key differences between the Pickerel frog and other members of the Lithobates genus is that it is a terrestrial frog and lacks webbed feet, whereas many of the Leopard frog species are semiaquatic and live near natural bodies of water.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

If Leopard frogs are legal to keep as pets where you live, you can’t go wrong with the Pickerel or one of the many other Leopard frog species. The one advantage the Pickerel has is that it’s a terrestrial species, whereas many other Leopard frogs are semiaquatic and require a body of water in captivity. Otherwise, these frogs have similar beauty, lifespans, and sizes.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Left – leoleobobeo, Pixabay | Right – Bernell, Pixabay

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