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sexing bearded dragons

Having a new bearded dragon inspires a lot of curiosity, especially about sex. And although sexing bearded dragons is easy for experienced keepers, first-timers find it difficult to tell if a beardie is male or female. This is because the differences between males and females are not that obvious.

Not to worry though, there are several ways to sex bearded dragons that when executed correctly, will give you accurate results. We will discuss these in detail in the list below. Nonetheless, keep in mind that certain factors like the age and maturity of a bearded dragon will determine your sex test’s accuracy level.

Here are the various ways to help tell the sex of your bearded dragon.

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1) Checking Hemipenal Bulges

Hemipenes are the internal sex organs of a reptile. Hemipenal bulges are usually found on the underside, at the base of the tail, and near the vent. While looking for the bulges, make sure that your bearded dragon is comfortable. Here is how to safely see the gender using this technique;

1. Secure them with their stomach resting on the palm of your hand. Make sure you have supported its legs and tail completely.

2. Gently lift the tail from the base, causing the side base to stretch a bit.

3. Look at the lower side of the tail at the base for the hemipenal bulges

You should notice the outline of a hemipenal bulge without any difficulty. In the female gender, there is a single bulge at the center near the anus. On the other hand if the dragon is male, they will have two hemipenal bulges underneath the tail running down to the anus.

Although this is the easiest method to determine the sex of a bearded dragon, it will not work for baby males and females. This is because hatchlings below four weeks old and even juveniles lack well-defined hemipenal bulges, making it difficult to use this method effectively. Therefore, your pet should attain a couple months of age before attempting this method. Another instance in which you may fail to notice a bump is if the animal is overweight, making visual inspection difficult.

Also, lots of care should be taken when checking for hemipenal bulges. You should lift it gently to avoid causing harm to your reptile. When done too quickly or aggressively, the lifting causes pain, discomfort, stress, or even injury to your bearded dragon. In extreme scenarios, it can result in your pet dropping its tail (tail autotomy).

2) Using a Flashlight

If a visual inspection of a hemipenal bulge is inconclusive doesn’t tell you if your animal is male or female, you can take it a step further and use a flashlight. It is similar to the process above, only this time, you shine a flashlight rather than relying on your eyes to spot them. Here is how you do it;

When you look at the base, you should see shadows. This is because some light will pass through the rest of the tail, but the hemipenal bulges will block it and thus, create the shadows. A single centered shadow shows that the bearded dragon is female, while two shadows indicate two hemipenal bulges, hence the bearded dragon’s gender is male.

3) Femoral Pores

Femoral pores are located on the bearded dragon’s underside on either thigh close to the anus. They act as openings of follicular glands that secrete pheromones, crucial chemicals secreted during mating and other social interactions to help the reptiles communicate with each other. The pheromones are secreted through femoral pores around a month after brumation, signaling that a bearded dragon is ready to mate.

Femoral pores are present in both male and female bearded dragons but differ in terms of size. If a bearded dragon is male, femoral pores are larger with a more pronounced color, making them visible to the naked eye. In female bearded dragons, the femoral pores are smaller and more faded and, thus, barely visible.

Nonetheless, this method is not as easy as it sounds. If you are not familiar with femoral pores and have trouble differentiating, you should use pictures as a reference source. This makes identifying femoral pores much easier and more accurate.

4) Cloacal Opening

Also known as the vent, this is the opening used by a bearded dragon to pass eggs, urine, and fecal matter. To see the opening, look at the bottom of the tail between a bearded dragon’s hind legs. In general, a male bearded dragon will have a wider opening than a female, but this isn’t the most accurate of methods and should only be used to confirm your conclusion from other techniques.

This method is also not suitable for a bearded dragon under 12 weeks old since males and females need to mature before the size difference is visually distinguishable.

5) Behavior

If you are a little more familiar with bearded dragons, closely watching the behavior of your pet can be another way to determine whether it is of a male or female gender. Some behavioral traits are more pronounced in males, while others are typically associated with female bearded dragons.

Aggressive and Dominant Behavior

This is a character trait typical of male bearded dragons. They usually hiss and stump to warn off intruders, engage in head bobbing, and fluff their beards to look bigger and threatening. A hissing male bearded dragon may bite as it feels threatened, so don’t try to handle it. The beard on the puffed head will sometimes take on a black hue in the process.

Nonetheless, a male will also bob their head to initiate a courtship with a female bearded dragon.

Submissive Behavior

Submissive behavior is more common in females who are willing to mate. It is most commonly expressed as a waving arm by juvenile females. It is also used by bearded dragons when combined with some color changes to warn other beardies in the vicinity that predators are close.

Nonetheless, these behaviors may be expected in a particular sex, but they are not exclusive to it. For instance, a female bearded dragon may show aggressive behavior like head bobbing when threatened. Juvenile males typically wave their arms to show submission when they see dominant males. Therefore, the accuracy of studying the behavior of bearded dragons to know the gender is best when combined with experience.

What are the Differences Between Male and Female?

Male and female bearded dragons have differences, be it behavioral or physical. The above sexing methods have been developed thanks to some of these differences. Although the other disparities are less accurate than any of the above, they can be excellent indicators of sex to an experienced eye. They also make for an interesting and fun opportunity to get to study your bearded dragon.

Here are other ways that you can tell the difference between a male and female dragon.

Tail Thickness

When you look at a male’s bearded dragon from the body point to tip, you will realize that it is thick. A female’s tail can also be thick from the point of the body, but for the rest of the tail, it is thinner when compared to the male. Nonetheless, this feature is not entirely noticeable for juvenile beardies as it becomes more pronounced as the reptile grows.

Head Size and Shape

The shape and size of a bearded dragon’s head can also be an interesting indicator of whether it’s male or female. As you might have guessed, males usually have bigger and thicker heads than females. Like with tail thickness, this observation is most accurate with adult bearded dragons than juvenile reptiles.

Spikes

Male or female, a bearded dragon must have spikes, especially at their beards. Nonetheless, they usually use these spikes in different situations;

Territory Behavior

Males are generally more territorial than female bearded dragons. Therefore, they will exhibit aggressive behavior, including changes in beard color. Normally they get a puffed head and black beard when another bearded dragon tries to encroach their territory. Therefore, you should never put two male bearded dragons together as they are likely to clash.

On the other hand, a female bearded dragon will share their territory with other females and even males of the same size.

Digging

Digging is a common behavior in both male and female bearded dragons. Nonetheless, you should pay closer attention when sexing your bearded dragon as the time of digging differs. Male bearded dragons usually dig for brumation. On the other hand, holes dug by females are used for laying eggs.

Pro-tip; When your female beardie exhibits signs of laying eggs, she needs extra care and safety precautions to ensure her health throughout the process. A female can also become gravid (condition of a fish or reptile when carrying eggs internally) without having sex. Therefore, don’t be shocked when you see your female beardie laying a clutch of eggs without mating in the past year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bearded Dragons

Does Age Matter When Trying to Sex a Bearded Dragon

Yes. It has a significant influence on the accuracy of sexing a bearded dragon. Expert handlers can quickly determine the sex of an eight-week-old bearded dragon, and some are even able know at four weeks. For the average owner, the accuracy of your observation increases as the reptile gets older.

Younger bearded dragons are also quite challenging to handle as they are very restless, and thus, you can easily damage their tails if you are not careful with them.

In general, many first-time owners will have to wait until your beardie is five or 6 months old to make a reliable conclusion on the sex. After 6 months of age, the sexual characteristics are much more defined, and the animals are also calmer, making it easier to handle them. If you are a bit more experienced, you can tell a bearded dragon’s sex before the 6 months mark.

Nonetheless, if you are up for the challenge of sexing your baby bearded dragons, you can use the following methods to tell the sex;

1. Tail Size; thinner tail in females than in males

2. Hemipenal bulges; two bulges in male and one in female

How Do I Measure the Approximate Age of My Bearded Dragon?

Since age matters when determining the sex a bearded dragon, it is essential to know the age of your beardie before sexing them. Many breeders will show you an accurate record of the bearded dragon’s birth, growth, and age. But in some situations, bearded dragon owners lack access to the breeder’s records of their new pets. Therefore, they may need to estimate with the help of age charts to help develop an estimate and thus, get the gender.

One way to know is to measure the length of your bearded dragon from head to the tip of the tail using a ruler or tape measure. Male or female, this method is more accurate in the first two years of a bearded dragon’s life. After this time, your reptile becomes fully mature, making the estimate using size more likely to be off.

Summary

Although male and female dragons generally receive similar care, they sometimes require special attention. Therefore, determining the sex of a bearded dragon is of much importance. A pet store may tell you the sex of your new beardie when you acquire it, but it is better to confirm this using the mentioned techniques.

These techniques are based on the physiological and behavioral differences between males and females. The differences are;

Using these differences, learning the sex of your bearded dragons is significantly easier. As long as you effectively follow your chosen method, you will accurately figure out their gender. Nonetheless, remember that your bearded dragon should be a couple of months old as this influences how accurate your sexing technique will be. Also, one needs to exercise extreme levels of care as too much aggressiveness may cause injury to the beardie.

Good luck knowing if your pet is male or female!

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