Bulbourethral glands: Anatomy and Function of the Cowper’s Glands

Chart depicting the male reproductive tract with the location of the bulbourethral gland

What Are The Bulbourethral Glands?

The bulbourethral glands, also known as Cowper’s glands, are small exocrine glands in the reproductive system of many male mammals. Named after English anatomist William Cowper, these glands are responsible for producing pre-ejaculatory fluid (commonly referred to as “pre-cum“).

The pre-ejaculatory fluid serves several important functions in the reproductive process, including:

  • Neutralizing residual urine
  • Providing nutrients and enzymes for sperm
  • Lubricating the urethra

Understanding the bulbourethral glands is important for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the male reproductive system.

In this article, we will delve into the composition of the bulbourethral glands and examine their location within the male reproductive system. Additionally, we will explore the function of these glands and the role they play in reproduction.

Anatomy of Bulbourethral Glands

The bulbourethral glands are located in the male reproductive system, near the base of the penis. They are small glands, measuring only about 1 cm (0.4 inches) in diameter, and serve a similar purpose to the Bartholin’s glands in females [1].

Compositionally, the bulbourethral glands can be characterized as tubulo-alveolar glands (exocrine). They are made up of a number of lobules, which are enclosed within a fibrous capsule, and are lined by pseudostratified epithelium. The lobules contain acini lined by columnar cells [2].

The bulbourethral glands have ducts that empty into the urethra, the tube through which both urine and semen pass. The glands are composed of a network of small tubes, or tubules, and saclike structures, and are supported by fibers of muscle and elastic tissue between the tubules [3].

Function of Bulbourethral Glands

The primary function of the bulbourethral glands is to produce and secrete a fluid called pre-ejaculatory fluid, also known as “pre-cum”. This fluid is released into the urethra before ejaculation, and serves several important purposes in the reproductive process.

One of the main functions of pre-ejaculatory fluid is to neutralize any residual urine in the urethra, helping to protect the sperm from the acidic environment of the urinary tract [1]. Pre-ejaculatory fluid also contains nutrients and enzymes that help to protect and sustain sperm during their journey through the reproductive tract.

Additionally, pre-ejaculatory fluid can help to lubricate the urethra, making it easier for semen to pass through during ejaculation. This can help to increase the chances of successful fertilization, as well as reducing the risk of discomfort or injury during sexual intercourse.

Related: Ejaculatory Ducts: Anatomy, Function And Disorders


In conclusion, the bulbourethral glands play a crucial role in ensuring the health and viability of sperm, and are an essential part of the male reproductive system. Understanding the anatomy and function of these glands can help to increase our understanding of male reproductive health, and can also inform efforts to improve reproductive outcomes and reduce the risk of infertility.

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulbourethral_gland
  2. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/cowper-s-gland
  3. https://www.britannica.com/science/bulbourethral-gland
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