Sexing Bearded Dragons. What You MUST Know.


Sexing bearded dragons is a step-by-step procedure of determining their gender. The process is complex since the gender features of bearded dragons are not conspicuously external like in mammals.

Some of the bearded dragon’s sex characteristics are internal. Although the external features are also used in sexing, the internal ones are more reliable. The nature of bearded dragons makes it challenging to tell the gender of your pet.

If you are new to bearded dragons, it will take time to learn how to determine the sex of beardies. Moreover, the process is more complex in baby and juvenile dragons than in adults.

This article will give you steps to sex your beardie and everything else you need to know.

What to Look Out For When Sexing Your Bearded Dragon

The following table gives you the parts of the bearded dragon that you examine when sexing them.

Hemipenal BulgesThe number of bulges.
Femoral poresThe size of the pores.
Cloacal openingThe size of the opening.
The headThe size of the head.
The tailThe size of the tail.
BeardThe color of the beard.
SpikesHow they use the spike.

Both male and female bearded dragons possess the above parts, but they differ in size, shape, and use.

Differences Between Male and Female Bearded Dragons

You must be aware of how male and female dragons differ from each other before you start examining them.

The following are general differences that distinguish between male and female dragons:

  •  Male dragons’ heads are bigger compared to females’ heads.
  •  An adult male has a thick tail at the base, while females have narrow or slender tails.
  •  Male bearded dragons are more aggressive compared to females that are more submissive.
  • Although male and female dragons have spikes on their bodies, they use them differently. Males use their spikes to show dominance over the females when mating, while females use their spikes as a defensive mechanism.
  •  Male bearded dragons have two hemipenal bulges while females have one.
  •  Males have darker colored beards than female bearded dragons.
  • Female bearded dragons have smaller femoral pores than males.

How to Sex Your Bearded Dragon

The following is a step-by-step procedure on sexing beardies. You apply the method independently on each part that you are examining.

Hemipenal Bulges

Hemipenal bulges signify the presence of hemipenes. Hemipenes are internal sexual organs equivalent to a bearded dragon penis.

How to identify the hemipenal bulges;

  •  Pick and hold the bearded dragon by the stomach with one of your hands.
  •  Using your other hand, hold the tail near the base.
  •  Lift the tail slowly and gently to an obtuse angle gradient until the sides of the base stretch out.
  •  If you have done it correctly, you will see one or two grooves stretching vertically towards the base. The grooves are the hemipenal bulges.
  • Males have two hemipenal bulges while females have one. The male hemipenal bulges are more conspicuous than in the female. In females, they are also smoother compared to males.

This procedure works well in adult dragons, and it is unreliable in baby and juvenile dragons since their hemipenal bulges are not well developed. 

Flashlight the Hemipenal Bulges

Flashlighting refers to shining a flashlight on the hemipenal bulges so that you can see them more clearly.

To flashlight, follow the following procedure:

  •  Put the dragon flat on the palm of your hand and lift the tail as in identifying the bulges. This time you have only one hand lifting the tail.
  •  Using your other hand, shine the light on the upper part of the tail’s base. It would help to direct the light to where the tail and the body meet.
  •  Observe, and you will see bulges that appear red or dark shadows. Male dragons have two red bulges that will appear like two shadows. The two shadows will be positioned on the sides of the tail opposite to each other. You will see only one shadow in the center of the tail for females.

Femoral Pores and Their Size

Femoral Pores are located on the underside of the beardie at the thighs of the back legs, and they appear like small circles across the thighs. In males, the femoral pores are larger and more distinct than the females.

However, it is impossible to determine the difference in size between the male and female pores.

It is unreliable to use the femoral pores to sex babies and juvenile dragons because they are not fully developed. Use this method on bearded dragons older than twelve months to get reliable results.

Cloacal Opening

The cloacal opening is found on the belly of the bearded dragon, and it is located between its hind legs. The cloacal opening is used to pass waste like faces and urate, and it is also used to lay eggs.

The male’s cloacal opening is wider compared to that of the female. However, this technique does not work for juveniles under 12 weeks old since they are not fully developed.

Behavior

In the process of sexing the bearded dragons, observing their behavior will help you differentiate between males and females.

The following are some of the behaviors to look out for:

  •  Males are more aggressive than females. Males will exhibit this trait by hissing, stomping, head bobbing, and beard fluffing. However, head bobbing is unreliable if you have two dragons in one enclosure. That is because even females do bob their heads but for different reasons.
  •  Female dragons are more submissive than males. They exhibit this submissive trait mainly by arm-waving.

Using the behavior criterion of sexing your bearded dragon is not very reliable, and that is because your pets may send mixed signals. Sometimes females too do exhibit male aggression behaviors but for different reasons.

You may also see arm waving in juvenile male dragons, which is dominantly a female trait.

When sexing your bearded dragon, you should apply all the above techniques to get accurate results. Using only one method may be unreliable.

Sexing Juvenile Bearded Dragons

Juvenile bearded dragons are more challenging to determine their sex compared to adults, and that is because the physical features used in sexing are not fully developed.

Bearded dragons less than twelve months old are categorized as juveniles. At this stage of growth, their physical features aren’t fully developed. It is still possible to sex them, but the reliability index of the results is low.

The primary way of sexing juvenile bearded dragons is by observing their tail size and hemipenal bulges. The two techniques are concurrently used since one confirms the other.

Follow the following process to sex your juvenile dragons:

  •  Follow the usual procedure of identifying the hemipenal bulges.
  •  Flashlight the hemipenal bulges.
  •  Once you have the results, confirm them using the tail size. Males have thicker tails as you head towards the base than females (which are narrow).

 For further confirmation, you can use the head size criteria. The male juvenile dragons have broader skulls than females. However, the head size technique may have a significant margin of error since the heads of young dragons aren’t fully developed.

The criteria of sexing juvenile bearded dragons are the same as adults’. However, due to underdeveloped features, the accuracy level of the sexing results may be shallow.

When sexing juveniles, it is crucial to know how they are aged, which will help you apply the correct criteria and analyze the results. The following table breaks down the aging of bearded dragons.

LengthAge
Between 3 and 4 inchesBelow one month old
Between 5 and 9 inchesTwo months old
Between 8 and 11 inchesThree months old
Between 9 and 12 inchesFour months old
Between 11 and 16 inchesFive months old
Between 11 and 18 inchesSix months old
Between 13 and 20 inchesEight months old
Between 16 and 22 inches12 months old

Behaviors to Observe When Sexing Bearded Dragons

There are specific and unique behaviors to each gender of your dragon. However, when using the behavior to determine the sex of your pet, you might face the problem of mixed signals.

With experience and skill, your bearded dragon’s behavior can give you reliable results. The method is reliable both in adults and juveniles.

The following are the specific behaviors and how to apply them:

Head Bobbing

When sexing your dragon, observe the circumstances under which the pet is bobbing. Males and females bob their heads when mating to show dominance and acceptance, respectively.

However, males will bob more often to show the dominance of the territory. They will head bob when another male is around or alone to stamp their power.

Hissing and Stamping

These are behaviors typical in males due to their dominating traits. Hissing and stamping signify aggression, and you will also find these behaviors in females when they are threatened.

Turning Their Heads Black

It is common in male dragons, but females also turn their heads black. It is more common in males to signify aggression or indicate that it is about to mate.

Arm Waving

Arm waving is a submissive behavior typical of female dragons. Female bearded dragons wave their arms to show submission to males. However, male dragons also wave to signal submission to other males or signal a predator’s presence.

Arm waving is more common in juvenile dragons. Like in adults, Female juveniles wave to show submission to males. Some young dragons submit to adults or other juveniles when feeding, depending on their social hierarchy.

The above behaviors have to be interpreted in line with prevailing circumstances. For example, you may want to observe both the head bobbing and arm waving concurrently. The dragon that will bob and wave simultaneously is more likely to be female.

The male dragon cannot arm wave during mating since it’s the dominant one.

FAQ’s about Bearded Dragon

Conclusion

Sexing bearded dragons is a complex process that will require skill and experience. There are some factors that you must know to determine the sex of your bearded dragon accurately.

Sexing of bearded dragons becomes even more complex for juvenile and baby dragons and even poses a challenge to the expert handlers. Their results are suppositions and not accurate due to the underdeveloped physical features.

The bearded dragons in captivity are sensitive and vulnerable. It would help if you handled them with extra care when sexing them to avoid reactions that may have side effects such as stress.

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