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Why Is Rayne, Louisiana, Known as "The Frog Capital of the World”?

Margaret Lipman
By
Published Jul 01, 2024
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For towns and cities hoping for a tourism boost, having a claim to fame is an indispensable part of the strategy to attract visitors and media attention. Sometimes, as in the case of Rayne, Louisiana, that claim to fame comes from celebrating a way of life that has all but disappeared.

Located in the Acadiana region of southern Louisiana, the small city of Rayne calls itself “The Frog Capital of the World.” Wherever you look in town, you’re greeted with images of frogs, as statues, on murals, and in the names of businesses around Rayne, which also calls itself “Frog City.”

Bullfrogs naturally thrive in the bayous, swamps, and crawfish ponds around Rayne. But it took the successive ingenuity of two Frenchmen to turn Rayne into a hub for shipping frogs across the country and even to Europe, where their legs ended up on dinner plates at fine dining restaurants.

Variously described as a chef or a tavern keeper, Donat Pucheu initiated the frog shipping industry in Rayne. Relying on the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad for convenient transport, Pucheu used his New Orleans restaurant connections as a market for locally sourced frog legs.

However, it was Jacques Weil who really made Rayne into Frog City. After arriving from Paris in 1901, Weil became the manager of Rayne’s general store. As was customary at the time, he accepted produce as a form of payment, eventually coming to specialize in bullfrogs, most of which would be shipped to New Orleans and eventually to other cities (and even to France). People from across Acadiana would deposit sacks of live bullfrogs at Weil’s store in exchange for necessities, and the business eventually had a cage containing 15,000 bullfrogs. Their skins were also sent to tanneries and turned into leather for various goods.

Other frog businesses popped up around Rayne, and the industry thrived through the 1950s. In their heyday, Weil and his brothers, Edmond and Gontran, were exporting 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg) of frog legs from Rayne on a weekly basis.

However, by the 1970s, Rayne’s frog industry had declined massively, largely due to competition from cheaper, imported frogs and the loss of the local bullfrog habitat. Rather than supplying gourmet meals, the Cajun frogs were relegated to supplying biology labs with specimens for dissections. These days, although their commercial potential has largely dried up, the frogs are still plentiful in the crawfish ponds around Rayne, providing ample opportunity for residents to potentially catch dozens during a successful evening of frogging.

Hop on over to Frog City:

  • Though the frog industry has waned, Rayne has kept its status as “The Frog Capital of the World,” largely thanks to the thriving annual Rayne Frog Festival, first held in 1973 and most recently celebrated in May 2024.

  • The lively, well-attended festival features pageants, a parade, music performances, carnival rides, dance contests, a hot-sauce eating competition, frog-kissing, frog races and jumping contests, live frogs wearing costumes, and, of course, eating frog legs.

  • Rayne has another frog-related claim to fame. In 1970, NASA sent two bullfrogs from Rayne into space (sadly, on a one-way mission) in a capsule to test the effects of weightlessness on their inner ears (which are surprisingly similar to a human’s).

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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