Jackson’s Chameleon Subspecies

There are currently three subspecies of Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii) described. But there is much variability in this species group and it is certain that there are more subspecies and even full species to be described within the three subspecies we currently recognize. This page will provide an identification for the three that you are likely to see in the pet trade. If you are interested in diving deeper please visit the Research Page for files, books, and links to more information.


Within the pet trade there are three commonly available subspecies:

Yellow-crested Jackson’s Chameleon

Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus

The largest of the three subspecies, T. j. xantholophus  (or, affectionately, just “Xanth”s) is the most common.  This chameleon is from the area around Mt. Kenya in Kenya, Africa, but has found its way to Hawaii in 1972. There are also reports of populations in other states of the USA such as Florida, Louisiana, and California, but verification of these populations is difficult.

This was the main chameleon (sub)species export in the 1970s. After Kenya stopped exporting this chameleon they started coming in from Hawaii where they had become a feral species.  Although moving the chameleons off the island is illegal (except for small numbers of personal pets) there seems to be no scarcity of them in the US trade. Unless specifically designated, a T. j. xantholophus in the US is probably of Hawaiian origin while in Europe they are almost certainly of Kenyan origin. The males have highly developed three horns while the females almost always have none.  Colors of both sexes are a bright and pleasing flow between lemon and lime colors.

Jacksons Chameleon full grown male

Male Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus


Lady Jacksons Chameleon

Female Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus

Machakos Hills Jackson’s Chameleon

Trioceros jacksonii jacksonii

The T. jacksonii jacksonii subspecies is a very diverse set of chameleons and certainly includes many subspecies and possibly species. Thus, a chameleon accurately labelled as T. j. jacksonii could be any number of chameleons. The most commonly encounter individual is the form from around the Machakos Hills. The males are brightly colored and the females can sport one or three horns. You will see many different common names such as “True Kenyan Jackson’s Chameleon”, “Rainbow Jackson’s Chameleon”, “Trioceros jacksonii willigensis”, and anything else importers can dream up. Hobbyists often call them “jax jax”.

Jacksons chameleon from Machaku Hills

Male Machakos Hills Jackson’s Chameleon

Female Jackson's Chameleon Machakos

Female Machakos Hills Jackson’s Chameleon

Mt. Meru Jackson’s Chameleon

Trioceros jacksonii merumontanus

These are the miniature Jackson’s.  We affectionately call them “Meru”s. The males have very long and impressive horns for their size.  In fact, you must set up your cage interior with these huge horns in mind!  The females have one horn.  These are a colorful subspecies with blues and yellows. They are a higher altitude species than the others and would benefit from a deeper dip in temperatures at night.

Mt. Meru Jackson's Chameleon

Male Mt. Meru Jackson’s Chameleon

female My. meru Jacksons Chameleon

Female Mt. Meru Jackson’s Chameleon

Each of the subspecies has the same mild personality.

For further information, including a Jackson’s Chameleon quick ID sheet and a list of various subspecies waiting to be described please visit our Research Page

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