The alligator is a large lizard-shaped reptile with four short legs and widespread toes. The hide is rough and scaled and the tail is long and muscular. Both male and female alligators are the same color, and there is no way to tell the two apart on the outside.

The skin on the alligator is very tough and covered with smooth horny scales in rows. The head of the alligator is large, flat, elongated and equipped with enormous jaws, hinged far back so that the mouth opens wide.