top of page

Common Name: Three Horned Chameleon

Scientific Name: Chamaeleo jacksonii


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chrodata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Sauria

Family: Chamaeleonidae

Genus: Chamaeleo

Species: C. jacksonii


Have you ever heard of a three-horned chameleon? I haven’t. They are African chameleons, belonging to the chameleon family Chamaeleonidae and were discovered and named after a guy named Jackson. They are small to medium sizes, and as an adult, they are about 12inches in total length. They normally display varying shades of green but can turn black when in great distress and have 3 horns. Males have 3 horns, 1 on the nose and 1 on each side of his head, above the eyes. Females, however, can either have no horns, 1 on the nose, or have all 3 horns. They are reptiles and are ectotherms (cold blooded).


These reptiles are native to Mt. Meru and Mt. Kenya in Africa. But in 1972, 36 of these chameleons were transported to Hawaii to be sold. They were released in a backyard to recover from the stress of importation. They then established a sizable population in Hawaii. The natural habitat of C. jacksonii receives as much as 50 inches of rain annually, so that humidity and water availability is critical for them. There are many of these chameleons around the world. However, three horned chameleons are said to be growing in population. They are said to be growing because of humans. We take them away from their home, and to a new one. Once there, they reproduced and expanded their population.


This three horned lizard’s diet consists of insects and spiders; they need their tongue to compete for food. Because their tongue is so long, (1½ times its length) they sit still and wait for food to come close so they can project their tongue, which is covered with sticky saliva, and bring the prey back to its mouth for food. They pretty much compete for food with each other and other animals that eat insects and spiders. These chameleons are usually eaten by snakes, especially the Boomslang Snakes and the Vine Snakes. Birds also sometimes eat them, like shrikes, coucals, and hornbills. The Cuckoo Hawk will occasionally eat chameleons too. 3 horned chameleons, however, can make them NOT want to eat them, because of their 3 horns. The horns make it hard for the predators to swallow. Like I have said in the beginning, I knew nothing about this chameleon except it’s a kind of chameleon.


What I learned as I wrote about this animal is that their population is actually growing, while many other animals population are shrinking. I also learned something interesting; these animals eat just like frogs, with their long tongue and all.


Author: Jack C.

Published: 05/2009



Tolley, K. & Burger, M. Chameleons of Southern Africa (Book)


Photo credit:

bottom of page