Lizards in the Uromastyx genus are also known as spiny-tailed lizards for one obvious reason: they boast a thick, spicky tail that makes up about one third of their body. The name Uromastyx comes from Ancient Greek words: ourá meaning “tail” and mastigo meaning “whip” or “scourge”.
Uromastyx lizards are well equipped for the arid regions in which they live. As herbivores, they take advantage of regional vegetation, including seasonal greens, leaves, flowers, buds and seeds, for their vegetarian diet. Uromastyx are distributed throughout North Africa, the Middle East, south-central Asia and India. They are classified in the Agamidae family, which includes Old World & Australasia lizards like bearded dragons, agamas and frilled lizards. This group is a sister family to Iguanidae which includes iguanas and chuckwallas which occupy the New World and Madagascar.
Local names for Uromastyx species are Mastigure and Dabb (or dhab) lizards.
Uromastyx are great pets if you provide appropriate care. There are a surprising number of different species of uros, reflecting the wide range they are native to in the Middle East and Africa. Their genus has been recently reorganized, and there are now Uromastyx and the closely related genus Saara under the agamid subfamily Uromasticinae. For example, U. hardwickii is now known as Saara hardwickii.
The most common ones available are Malis (U. maliensis) which are black with greenish yellow on the back. Saharans/Nigerians (U. geryi) are more colorful and have either bright yellow or orange evenly dispersed along their entire body. Ornates are more expensive, with blue, green and yellow coloration, with some variation between individuals. Some Ornate Uromastyx morphs include “white” (hypomelanistic) where the black color is reduced making the other colors more vibrant and red variants. By comparison, Egyptian Uromastyx (Egyptian spiny-tail lizards) can be rather plain looking, but tend to have great personalities and become very tame pets if you spend enough time with them with gentle handling and treats.
In general males are more colorful than females but this is not always the case with every species. Low prices could mean that they are not fully acclimated to captivity. Unfortunately few breed these wonderful lizards and most are wild caught imports. Mali stopped allowing exports, so expect U. maliensis to become more rare and more highly priced. U. geryi are probably the best uros to start with for a beginner.
Uromastyx lizards are predominantly herbivorous reptiles and need an appropriate diet. As herbivores, they are opportunistic feeders and eat leaves, stems, shoots, fruit, flowers and buds of native plants in their environment. They require adequate space, high heat and low humidity but otherwise, Uromastyx are easy to care for.