How To Tell The Gender Of Your Bearded Dragon

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When I got my first bearded dragon, thankfully all the necessary information was provided for me including its sex. With the experience I had back then, I probably would’ve pronounced it female because it looked smaller than the usual males of its age. It’s difficult to determine the sex of bearded dragons by assessing physical traits alone such as variation in color or size. Although size is a factor, it’s not an accurate indicator.

Your best clue to deciphering your bearded dragon’s gender is by observing its genitals. The presence or absence of hemipenal bulges at the base of the tail, just before the cloaca (anal opening) will indicate whether your pet is male or female. These bulges are, in fact, the male bearded dragon’s reproductive organs.

Differentiating a male from a female beardie can be even more difficult if the dragons are young, but that’s nothing a good article couldn’t help you clarify. So, let’s get right into it!

4 Major Ways To Identify The Sex Of Your Bearded Dragon

As an expert, I can tell which beardie is male or female just by examining distinct features that we’ll discuss as you read. However, if you’re a newbie, you will have to start with the best and most accurate tell-tale sign there is: the hemipenal bulge.

1. Check The Hemipenal Bulge

The hemipenal bulge, as I have explained, is simply the male beardie’s reproductive organ, and here’s how to locate it:

  • Position your bearded dragon on your palm head facing your fingers and bottom facing you.
  • Carefully lift the tail up till you can see the cloaca.
  • At the base of the tail, look for little twin bulges or feel for them with your fingers.
  • If present your beardie is male, and if absent, it is a female.

2. Note The Differences In Body Size

Telling the gender of dragons in the wild is much easier than with those in captivity. Diet and other factors lcan complicate their appearances, creating striking resemblances between the two sexes.

Nevertheless, males beardies often have bigger heads and longer tails compared to females. You’ll find their heads a little chiseled, and defined with spikes unlike females which have an almost equal tail-to-body ratio.

This is notable on most occasions unless the dragons were specially incubated to change their sex as embryos, which we will discuss later. The problem with this technique is that you will need another bearded dragon to compare differences and thus, identify the sex of your bearded dragon. However, if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can tell the gender right off the bat as an expert would.

What to look for:

  • Thickness and length of the tail
  • Head size
  • General body size
  • Body-to-tail ratio
  • The crown of the head

3. Take A Look At The Femoral Pores

Femoral pores are glands littered underneath the hind legs of bearded dragons that are primarily used to secrete pheromones. These pheromones are used to communicate with other bearded dragons during mating season or to mark territory as they’re highly territorial.

For most freely bred beardies, the femoral pores of males are much more pronounced compared to those of females. In fact, if you look closely, you should instantly see the difference. As evolution would have it, the males secrete more pheromones because they dominate the females while possessing territory. This puts their pronounced pores to good use.

4. Observe The Birthing-Belly Structure

Along with the physical differences between the males and females, you can tell the gender of bearded dragons by observing closely how loose or “pouchy” the belly looks. The looseness of the belly is conditioned to accommodate eggs in females, and if you know what to look for, you can immediately tell which dragon is female among a pair. The belly will simply look much rounder and plump compared to that of males.

behavior of female and male bearded dragons

Do Female Bearded Dragons Behave Differently Than Males?

If you are wondering whether sex influences your dragon’s behavior, the answer is yes it does.
Female bearded dragons do act differently than males; they are less aggressive, much more docile, and exhibit far less territoriality.

Females are more accustomed to burrowing to lay eggs, waving their arms, and flashing their beards less. They are also more relaxed and easier to tame than the males.

What About The Male Bearded Dragons?

Well, male dragons on the other hand are a lot more dominant. They are highly territorial and would fight even their reflection for the best basking spot. You’d notice less arm waving, more head bobbing and some serious beard flashing when they’re upset or trying to impress the females during mating season.

Other behaviors of males include burrowing to find a spot to lie down instead of laying eggs like females, arm waving during a defeated fight with a dominant male, and stomping and head bobbing when they’re irritated.

As you can see, these traits are generalized between males and females. It just happens to be that one gender will show more of certain traits compared to the other.

Female BeardiesMale Beardies
Body SizeThey grow up to 16 – 20 inches, but in altered situations during incubation, they may grow as big as males!They grow from 18 – 24 inches from head to tail. However, their growth depends on several factors like genetic issues or nutrition.
Head SizeHave smaller heads compared to males.Have larger heads to accommodate the numerous puffing of the beard that they consistently display.
BeardThey have generally smaller beardsThey have a much more aggressive and larger beard in comparison.
Femoral PoresThey have smaller femoral pores.They have larger pores to assist them in marking territories.
BreedingAre more submissive during breeding.Are highly dominant and feisty during mating.
Belly PouchThey have large bellies that hang lower to the floor.Normal-sized belly at all times.

Can You Put A Male And Female Bearded Dragon In One Enclosure?

Bearded dragons are solitary species that prefer to be left alone. Regardless of their sex, they are highly competitive and males will prey on female beardies since they are weaker.

In a nutshell, putting your male and female beardie in one enclosure is a horrible idea. The female beardie will receive significantly less of its necessities like UVB rays, shade spots, and food.

Naturally, females don’t like to compete with males. When and if they do, it always leads to more harm than expected. Do not put a male and female bearded dragon in one space.

mating behavior of bearded dragons

Female And Male Bearded Dragon Mating Behavior

Since putting a male and female beardie in one enclosure is dangerous, how then do they reproduce? The only way to breed your dragon safely is to place both healthy adults (at least 18 months old) in the same tank for alternating weeks. That means that you put the female in the tank of the male (not the other way around) for one week and then separate them for the following week till they have altogether lived 3 weeks together.

During this period, both beardies will show distinct behaviors; the male will have a much more blackened beard and will stomp around to impress the female, while she will wave and attempt to run away to show either submission or acceptance. This process requires patience because they will not mate right away; they’ll have to get accustomed to their surroundings before reproduction begins.

Female And Male Bearded Dragon Post-Mating Behavior

Female beardies behave differently after mating. After 4 to 6 weeks of breeding, you’ll find them to be more anxious as they’ll pace around their enclosure more frequently and start burrowing for a suitable spot to lay their eggs. They will certainly look plumper than normal and you may even see the imprint of eggs around your pet’s belly.

At this point, you should have a lay box (View on Amazon) filled with potting soil (View on Amazon) for your dragon to bury her eggs. The laying of eggs occurs mostly during the afternoons to evenings, or even at night when you’re asleep.

If you can’t determine whether your beardie has laid her eggs, or suspect that it has not laid all the eggs successfully, quickly consult a veterinarian to either analyze and prevent the possibility of egg binding or manage the complications before they become fatal.

As for the males, well, aren’t they lucky little fellas! All they have to do is relax and prepare for brumation. They don’t have to trot around with a stomach full of eggs or dig for a spot to lay them. The male beardies will generally be less aggressive and more docile after mating is out of the way but will generally be more reserved.

The Fun Part: You Can Reverse The Genders Of Bearded Dragons

As sci-fi as this sounds, you can overturn the sex of a bearded dragon embryo simply by tweaking the temperature of the incubator. This fascinating attribute has been studied by several scientists worldwide and bearded dragon enthusiasts.

See, beardies have ZZ (male) and ZW (female) chromosomes; when the temperature is 89.6° Fahrenheit, the gender of the embryo is determined by the sex chromosomes. If the temperature goes above 89.6° Fahrenheit, most of the embryos are reversed to females and when the temperature reaches 96.8° Fahrenheit, all the embryos become female!

The most incredible aspect of this genetic reversal is that the reversed females (males (ZZ) who turn into females (ZW)) still grow with physical attributes resembling males such as a larger body size but will be able to breed as females, lay eggs, and even make healthier mothers according to this study from ABC.

This is why determining the gender of your bearded dragon based on appearance is a hassle, and identifying the gender based on the absence or presence of the hemipenal glands becomes the only way out.

The Conclusion

At the end of the day, checking for hemipenal glands is the most accurate method to decide which sex your dragon is. With this article, you are fully equipped to decipher your beardie’s sex and give them spectacular names that fit! Remember that veterinarians are one call away to help you through any problems you may encounter, to ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.

Photo of author

Medi

EL Mehdi (Medi), the founder and voice behind Desired Reptiles. He is a pet lover who loves to discuss about bearded dragons and share the knowledge he gained over time about pet reptiles.

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