How To Sex Bearded Dragons: 6 Male vs Female Differences

Male and female Bearded Dragons have many physical and behavioral differences. The difficulty is these differences are not always easy for the untrained eye to spot! Male or female Bearded Dragons can look very similar to the untrained eye.

If you are not sure how to sex a Bearded Dragon both genders end up looking like plain old’ lizards.

Body size, head size, and tail shape are just a few male vs female differences. Not only are there physical differences, but males actually behave very differently! These behaviors can also help you when sexing a Bearded Dragon.

Want to learn how to sex a Bearded Dragon? Are you not sure if you want to buy a male or female? Keep reading and you will learn all about the differences between male and females.

How To Tell If A Bearded Dragon Is Male Or Female

How To Sex Bearded Dragons

There are a few different ways to sex a Bearded Dragon. Males have larger bodies, bigger heads, a wider tail base and hemipenal bulges. They are also much more aggressive and will present their spikes more frequently than females.

The method you will use to determine if you have a boy or girl Bearded Dragon will depend on their age and ability to be handled.

Beardies are actually very sexually dimorphic and have some pretty noticeable differences, once you know what to look for! In this section we will discuss all the different ways you can sex your Bearded Dragon. When in doubt use a few different methods to be sure…

1. Hemipenal Bulges

Hemipenal Bulges
(c) YouTube

The hemipenes are the sex organ found in most male reptiles, they can be compared to a mammalian’s penis. The hemipenes are usually stored inside the base of their tail. This means the bulges of a male’s hemipenes are visible from the underside of the base of their tail.

If you cannot see any hemipenal bulges it is likely that your bearded dragon is a girl.

In order to check your Bearded Dragon for hemipenal bulges it is important that they are comfortable being handled. If they are young or overly squirmy you can easily cause injury using this method. This is not the best method for sexing young or unhandled individuals.

Method

  1. Hold your Beardie comfortably by the stomach. You can do this by laying them flat on your left palm so you are looking at their back from a bird’s eye view.
  2. Ensure your lizard is comfortable and not going to struggle.
  3. Using your right hand firmly grasp their tail about one third of the way from the base.
  4. Pull their tail upward and toward their head. It is important to be gentle and slowly raise their tail so they are not injured.
  5. Keep lifting their tail upwards towards their head until you fully expose their cloaca.
  6. At this point the tail base area should easily be in view.

If you have a male you should see two bulges on the lateral sides of the bottom of the tail base. These bulges should be paired grooves that run vertically down the center of the tail to the cloacal opening.

With a female there should have a single bulge at the tail base. This single bulge runs horizontally above the center of the cloaca and will be a lot less defined.

This method can be used for any Beardie that is older than 12 weeks, but it can be difficult to see the hemipenal bulges in babies. Their small hemipenes can be hard to see without the flashlight.

Flashlight Method

Hemipenal Bulges Flashlight
(c) YouTube

If you are having trouble sexing your bearded dragon you will have an easier time using a flashlight. This method is the same as the method above, but the flashlight makes the bulges easily visible. It is similar to how you can shine a flashlight on an egg to to see the inner contents.

Hold your bearded dragon in the same position as before:

  1. Hold your Beardie comfortably by the stomach. You can do this by laying them flat on your left palm so you are looking at their back from a bird’s eye view.
  2. Ensure your lizard is comfortable and not going to struggle.
  3. Using your right hand firmly grasp their tail about one third of the way from the base.
  4. Pull their tail upward and toward their head. It is important to be gentle and slowly raise their tail so they are not injured.
  5. Keep lifting their tail upwards towards their head until you fully expose their cloaca.
  6. At this point shine a flashlight at the tail base from the top-side (i.e. dorsal) and look from the bottom-side (i.e. ventral).

If your bearded dragon is a boy you should see the hemipenal bulges at the bottom of the tail base as two dark red grooves with black shadows on either side.

Girl bearded dragons should have a singular black bulge in the middle of the tail base.

2. Tail Size

Tail Size

Some of the most obvious differences between male vs female bearded dragons are tail size, head size and their beards. This species displays sexual dimorphism which means that males and females have different physical appearances.

In general the tail base is usually wider and thicker in males than in females. This thick tail is because the hemipenes are stored in the base of the tail. Remember the method we used to sex a Bearded Dragon in the example above!

Females on the other hand have much slimmer and narrower tails that taper very distinctly at the base.

When looking at your Bearded Dragon from the top down this difference in tail size is very easy to see. This can be seen in younger, juvenile individuals too.

3. Head Size

Male_vs_Female_Bearded_Dragon_Head

Male vs Female Bearded Dragon Head

Head size is different between boy and girl bearded dragons. Males have much thicker, wider heads that they use to intimidate animals in the wild. Females have narrower heads that are also generally smaller.

This difference in head size is usually harder to see in juveniles and easier to see when males have fully grown.

A male bearded dragon head will also have a different presentation of spikes. Male Beardies will often present their beard spikes much more frequently than females. They also tend to have much darker beards that they will inflate and stiffen when threatened.

Males also puff their dark bears when they desire to mate, while females usually only display this behavior when threatened.

4. Body Size

Male_vs_Female_Bearded_Dragon_Size

Male vs Female Bearded Dragon Size

Males are normally slightly larger in body size so that they can compete with other males, hunt and mate with females. Females are often naturally lighter and shorter.

Males frequently reach up to 24 inches long while females only reach 19 inches.

A full grown bearded dragon will measure 16 to 24 inches long and weigh between 380 and 500 grams. You may notice that females fall on the shorter and lighter side, while males will be towards the heavier end. It is not uncommon for males and females from the same clutch to have a 100+ gram weight difference when fully grown.

Expect a female to be smaller in size, have a slimmer head and a narrower tail that tapers at the base.

5. Femoral Pores

Femoral pores are pores that are located inside your Bearded Dragon’s thighs. These pores are used mainly during breeding or other social interactions to secrete pheromones.

You can sex a Bearded Dragon by looking at the size and pattern of these pores. Males tend to have femoral pores that are larger, more distinct and a lot easier to see. Female Bearded Dragon femoral pores are smaller and around the size of the head of a pin.

Method

  1. If you want to check for femoral pores first make sure your lizard is comfortable with handling.
  2. Place your hand on your Bearded Dragon’s back and pick it up.
  3. Ensure your lizard is comfortable and not going to struggle.
  4. Rotate your hand so that you are able to clearly see its belly.
  5. At this point their inner thighs should be in clear view.

If your Bearded Dragon is male you should see large clearly defined circles on their inner thighs. These circles are usually the size of very small pebbles and run in a line from the beginning of the thigh to the knee joint.

Females still have these pores however they are smaller and usually harder to see. Female femoral pores are around the size of the head of a pin vs males which can have pores the size of very small pebbles.

Beginners may have some difficulty sexing Bearded Dragons from femoral pores alone.

Often it is hard to compare pores without having a Bearded Dragon of known sex to compare with. This technique should also not be used on individuals under 12 months old. Beardies under 12 months are not fully developed and the femoral pores will often look identical between males and females at this age.

6. Cloacal Opening

The cloaca in reptiles is an opening used for waste and breeding. This opening is also called the vent and is different in sexually dimorphic lizards. Males have a cloaca that is usually wider than females. The reason for this is that this is where their hemipenes are everted during breeding.

Using this technique will be very similar to the method used for checking femoral pores.

Method

  1. First make sure your lizard is comfortable with handling.
  2. Place your hand on your Bearded Dragon’s back and pick it up.
  3. Ensure your lizard is comfortable and not going to struggle.
  4. Rotate your hand so that you are able to clearly see its inner thighs and cloaca.

If your Bearded Dragon is a boy you will see a fairly wide cloacal opening, when compared to a female. The exact size difference will depend on the individual as cloaca size differs with body size. However, females will always have a narrower cloaca.

This method is difficult if you do not have a Bearded Dragon of known sex to compare with.

Observing the cloacal opening width is best when combined with other techniques like checking for a hemipenal bulge to sex a Bearded Dragon.

Males need time to mature for the differences to become visible so this technique will not work with individuals under 12 weeks old.

Male vs Female Bearded Dragons

Male Bearded Dragon
Male Bearded Dragon

Lots of the physical differences between girl and boy Bearded Dragons can be explained by their natural behaviors.

Male Bearded Dragons are highly aggressive and competitive with other males. They are known to frequently fight each other in the wild and compete for the attention of females. You will often see them hiss, stamp their feet and puff their beard.

These aggressive behaviors result in physical differences.

Highly competitive, aggressive males need to be bigger and more intimidating. Because of this you see males with a bigger overall body size and larger heads.

Males also communicate and assert dominance through pheromones. Because of this they have much larger and more defined femoral pores.

Females are much more submissive and will often demonstrate more submissive behaviors like arm waving. While females arm wave, younger males do too. This is because they tend to be a lot more submissive than adults.

They generally have the same shy personality throughout the year, apart from breeding seasons.

Female Bearded Dragon behaviors are different during breeding season. When preparing to lay eggs females will often dig in the corners of their enclosure. She will often lay infertile eggs so you will need to create spots for her to lay eggs within the enclosure. She will also need to be fed more calcium and food in preparation for laying.

Comparison Chart

Trait Male Female
Hemipenal bulge Two bulges on the lateral sides of the bottom of the tail base. Single bulge that runs horizontally above the center of the cloaca.
Femoral Pores Large clearly defined circles on their inner thighs that run in a line from the beginning of the thigh to the knee joint. Smaller, harder to see and around the size of the head of a pin.
Cloacal Opening Usually wider as their hemipenes are everted during breeding. Narrower.
Beard Puff their beard spikes much more frequently and have much darker beards. Only inflate their spikes when threatened.
Head Size Thicker, wider heads that they use to scare prey in the wild. Narrower and smaller heads.
Tail Size The presence of their hemipenes makes their tail base much wider. Much narrower tail bases that taper sharply.
Overall Size Up to 24 inches long and 500 grams so that they can hunt and compete with other males. Often naturally lighter and shorter, reaching up to 19 inches long and 400 grams.
Behaviors Aggression, hissing, stamping their feet, puffing their beard, digging, arm waving (juvenile) and head bobbing. Submission, digging (breeding), arm waving and head bobbing.

At What Age Can You Sex A Bearded Dragon?

Male vs Female Bearded Dragons

Baby Bearded Dragons can be difficult to sex. Most of the obvious traits like a larger body, head size, tail size, hemipenal bulges and femoral pores have yet to develop or mature. Younger Beardies are also less socialized to handling which can make safely sexing them difficult.

In general it is best to wait until your Bearded Dragon is at least 12 weeks old.

It is possible to accurately sex a Bearded Dragon from 12 weeks, especially for experienced keepers.

Beginners might be best waiting until 12 months of age to get the most accurate results. At this point it is easier to see certain characteristics like hemipenal bulges.

If you are in a rush the flashlight method is one of the easiest ways to sex your Bearded Dragon. The flashlight helps make the small hemipenal bulges more visible, especially in juveniles.

There are no hard and fast rules for babies and any attempt to determine their gender will be more of an educated guess. You will be able to tell a boy from a girl with more accuracy once your Beardie has matured into an adult after 12 months.

Summary

If you are unsure about the sex of your Bearded Dragon the best method is to look for hemipenal bulges. Male Bearded Dragons have two hemipenal bulges that are visible at the bottom of the base of their tail.

Shine a flashlight at the tail base from the top-side. A male will have two hemipenal bulges that look like two dark red grooves with black shadows on either side. Females have a less defined, single bulge that runs horizontally above the center of their cloaca, not vertically.

The presence of their hemipenes makes their tail base and cloacal opening much wider. They are also bigger in size, have larger heads and tails and bigger femoral pores.

Females are naturally lighter and shorter and have smaller heads and narrower tails. They also have smaller femoral pores that are around the size of the head of a pin. Their shy nature means they will only puff their spikes when threatened and are more likely to arm wave and head bob.

Did we help you sex your Bearded Dragon? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

About Nigel Robert

Nigel Robert Nigel is the managing editor at More Reptiles. He is a lifelong reptile lover, biologist and wildlife consultant who brings a decade of experience working in reptile conservation and consultancy. He joined our team in 2020 and when he’s not reviewing reptile care sheets, he’s out looking for reptiles in the wild!

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