Texas Horny Toad guru shares passion for reptile, conservation at rodeo

Tom McCain is founder of Horny Toad Connection

By Priscilla Carraman - Producer, Ellie Holmes - News Producer

SAN ANTONIO - It was more than 40 years ago when Tom McCain was in the U.S. Marine Corps and picked up the hobby of carving animals out of wax. 

Today, that hobby is now a full-fledged business, creating and selling hand crafted horny toads across Texas and educating people about the official reptile of Texas while he does it. 

"I make about 15,000 horny toads a year," he said. "Before 2008, I was making more than that."

McCain begins by carving every detail of the toad into the wax. 

"Every little horn and scales, even his belly," he said. 

After signing and dating them as a copyright, he adds a rubber mold before taking it to his personal foundry where he does all of his own casting. 

McCain first brought his work to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo in 1998. 

"It's a big party to me," he said. "As I like to tell everyone, I'm just chasing my horny toad tail around and around."

McCain's passion for the lizard runs deep, and that's what keeps him coming back.

"It's something that has been a joy in my life -- to create something that relates to everybody. It really shows how fast things change in this world, because the kids today have not really ever seen a horny toad," McCain said.

McCain also works with the Horned Lizard Society of Austin. Their mission is to educate people in Texas about the endangered species. 

"Always leave 'em where you find 'em and don't poison that big red ant," he said. "It's 80 percent of his diet."

Not surprisingly, his work is popular among students, alumni and fans of Texas Christian University, whose mascot is the horned frog. McCain's work has also been commissioned for restaurants and bars with a horny toad, or all-around Texas theme. 

At the root of it, McCain just wants to make people smile. 

"It's a real fun thing to do, it brings a lot of pleasure and that is one of the most important things to know—if you can bring a smile in this world it's worth a lot and I really try to do that," McCain said. "Horny toads have given me an opportunity to reach out and make a statement in this world."

You can find McCain in Expo Hall 2 at the rodeo.

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