You may be surprised to learn that determining the sex of your bearded dragon isn’t as simple as looking for a bearded dragon penis or a vagina. Anatomically speaking, sexing mammals is just easier.
Don’t fret! There are reliable methods for determining your beardie’s gender. Once you know what you’re looking for, sexing a bearded dragon is a relatively straightforward process.
As a matter of fact, after reading this article, you’ll probably be thankful that you don’t have to see your bearded dragon’s hemipenis…
Warning: This article depicts graphic imagery of a cloacal prolapse (prolapsed hemipenes). Dried blood and internal tissues are present.
Table of Contents
Bearded Dragon Sexes
Male and female bearded dragons have physical and behavioral differences.
Both sexes make equally good pets. If you’re trying to decide, it comes down to personal preference.
- Are smaller
- Tend to be calmer
- May engage in arm-waving
- Have a chance of developing unfertilized eggs
- Like chickens, some female beardies may develop eggs without the presence of a male or his sperm cells.
- Any bearded dragon that develops eggs has a risk of developing a calcium deficiency and dystocia (egg-binding). Producing eggs is highly taxing on a female bearded dragon’s body.
- Are larger
- May display a black beard
- Act more aggressive during the breeding season
- Occasionally require assistance with clogged pores and sperm plugs (see below)
If any of these traits are important to you, be sure to learn how to sex a bearded dragon before you bring one home!
Bearded Dragon Penis (Hemipenis)
A male reptile’s entire sexual organ is referred to as the hemipenes. Hemipenes is the plural word for a hemipenis.
A hemipenis is one of two tube-like structures that form a male reptile’s hemipenes.
Why Do Lizards Have Two Penises?
It all comes down to embryonic development.
Mammalian embryos develop only one penis. Scientists believe this is because the penis begins to grow from the same general vicinity as the tailbone.
The structures in this area signal for cells to grow one structure. One tailbone? One penis.
Reptiles’ sexual organs develop closer to their rear leg buds. This area signals for cells to grow into two structures. Two rear legs? Two penises.
Scientists confirmed this theory by grafting chickens’ reproductive tissue next to their limb buds.
Chickens naturally have a single penis, but the chickens with grafted tissue grew secondary reproductive buds.
A lizard’s penises are inverted, meaning that it naturally sits inside of the body. It rests in the tail, behind the cloaca (sexual and anal opening).
Male beardies, and other lizards, typically have a wider tail base and longer tail to accommodate their pair of penises.
Fun Fact: Scientists have discovered that a lizard’s penis evolves six times faster than any other body part. Some species of lizard look so similar that scientists use the appearance of their hemipenes to identify them!
Thanks to their unique sexual organs, male beardies have some unique care requirements. It’s a package deal!
Special Considerations and Care for Male Bearded Dragons
Believe it or not, caring for a male bearded dragon requires some extra steps. These issues often cause panic, or worse, for new bearded dragon owners and their pets.
Clogged Femoral Pores
Femoral pores are enlarged skin openings that secrete pheromones, chemicals that signal sexual status to other members of the same species.
You’ll find a single row of femoral pores on the underside of the animal’s thighs and anal region. They look like black circles or dots.
Both male and female bearded dragons have femoral pores. Male dragons’ femoral pores are much larger, secrete more substance, and are more likely to get clogged.
Fun Fact: Bearded dragons aren’t the only lizards with femoral pores. Iguanas, other agamas, girdled lizards, collared lizards, horned lizards, and many other lizard families have femoral pores. Monitor lizards and some female geckos don’t have them.
The first step to caring for your bearded dragon’s femoral pores is to check them every week. Early signs of femoral pore issues include:
- Pliable yellow plugs
- Soft, waxy discharge
Once you notice these signs, it’s time to take action!
- Give your bearded dragon daily baths. Soak your bearded dragon in 100°F water for at least 60 minutes every day. Warm the water back up every ten minutes. Cold water won’t loosen the plugs. Increase the frequency to twice a day, for the same duration, if possible.
- Rub the softened plugs with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Be gentle. Don’t scrub! Wash the brush before and after each session to avoid introducing bacteria and infection.
- Apply a thin layer of plain triple antibiotic ointment. Avoid antibiotics ointment with added pain relief.
Don’t try to squeeze the waxy discharge or plugs out. Doing so could result in permanent damage. If the plug is at all hardened or stuck in place, it needs veterinary treatment.
Clogged pores that aren’t cared for may become impacted, infected, or even result in an abscess. Impacted pores, or worse, always require veterinary treatment.
Watch for the following signs of an impacted pore:
- Redness and swelling
- Thin, liquidy discharge
- Hardened, darkened, horny ‘plug’
Make an appointment with your reptile veterinarian if you notice any of these signs.
A prolapsed hemipenis is one of several types of cloacal prolapse in reptiles.
If you notice red flesh protruding from your bearded dragon’s cloaca, act fast.
The sensitive tissue on their reproductive organs is prone to drying out and dying off.
If the tissue becomes necrotic, a veterinarian will need to remove it surgically. Don’t forget the risk of systemic infection!
Mild prolapses may heal on their own. You can try soaking your bearded dragon’s cloaca in warm sugar water. Try to keep the lizard calm.
After soaking the lizard’s prolapse, apply gentle pressure with a moistened cotton swab. You can also apply sugar paste or honey.
Keep in mind that any delay in treatment increases the risk of serious complications.
Arrange a veterinary appointment while your bearded dragon is soaking, just in case its condition doesn’t improve.
A prolapsed hemipenis may occur due to calcium deficiency or a case of “mating gone wrong.” They may also occur spontaneously.
Seminal plugs are the least significant occurrence in our list, but they still may freak some owners out.
Many vigilant new owners mistake a seminal plug for a prolapsed hemipenis!
Fortunately, seminal plugs are a common and harmless occurrence. They’re essentially an encapsulated build-up of lizard sperm.
Once too much substance has built up, the lizard must get rid of it. Usually, it comes out when the beardie defecates, and the owner is none the wiser.
Other times, keepers may notice it is protruding from the lizard’s vent. Ah! A prolapse! Panic!
Hold on. Look closely. Prolapsed bits are usually red, fleshy, inflamed, or even bloody.
Seminal plugs, or sperm plugs, are white or clear. They may appear waxy or crusty, but never red or bloody.
If your bearded dragon seems to be having a hard time dislodging a stuck seminal plug, follow the same steps for clogged femoral pores: soak the area in warm water and rub gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
The seminal plug is more than an occasional annoyance. It serves an important purpose: reproduction.
Bearded Dragon Sex
Bearded dragon sex tends to be rather violent.
The male bearded dragon circles the female, inching closer with each pass.
He will darken his beard and bob his head.
The female may wave her arm or bob her head in return.
Once the male is close enough, he will latch onto her neck, back, or shoulders – with his teeth! He positions his pelvis underneath hers and everts his hemipenes.
Thankfully, this is the only time you should ever see them!
The male may insert one hemipenis, or both hemipenes, into the female’s cloaca. He then deposits his seminal plug.
The entire ordeal ends as quickly as it started.
Have you ever been startled by your boy beardie’s seminal plug or everted hemipenes? Tell us about it in the comment section below!