The name "collared lizard" comes from the lizard's distinct coloration, which includes bands of black around the neck and shoulders that look like a collar. It is a member of the collared lizard family. The origin of the name "mountain boomer" is not clear, but it may be traceable to settlers traveling west during the Gold Rush. One theory is that settlers mistook the sound of wind in canyons for the call of an animal in an area where the collared lizard was abundant. In reality, collared lizards are silent.
Like many other lizards, including the frilled lizard and basilisk, collared lizards can run on their hind legs, and are relatively fast sprinters. Record speeds have been around 16 miles per hour (26 km/h), much slower than the world record for lizards (21.5 mph or 34.6 km/h) attained by the larger-bodied Costa Rican spiny-tailed iguana, Ctenosaura similis.
Collared lizards in the wild have been the subject of a number of studies of sexual selection. In captivity if two males are placed in the same cage they will fight to the death. Males have a blue-green body with a light brown head. Females have a light brown head and body.