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|Artery||Artery of the urethral bulb|
A bulbourethral gland, also called a Cowper's gland for English anatomist William Cowper, is one of two small exocrine glands present in the reproductive system of many male mammals (of all domesticated animals, they are only absent in the dog). They are homologous to Bartholin's glands in females.
Bulbourethral glands are located posterior and lateral to the membranous portion of the urethra at the base of the penis, between the two layers of the fascia of the urogenital diaphragm, in the deep perineal pouch. They are enclosed by transverse fibers of the sphincter urethrae membranaceae muscle.
The bulbourethral glands are compound tubulo-alveolar glands, each approximately the size of a pea in humans. In chimpanzees, they are not visible during dissection, but can be found on microscopic examination. In boars, they are up to 18 cm long and 5 cm in diameter. They are composed of several lobules held together by a fibrous covering. Each lobule consists of a number of acini, lined by columnar epithelial cells, opening into a duct that joins with the ducts of other lobules to form a single excretory duct. This duct is approximately 2.5 cm long and opens into the urethra at the base of the penis. The glands gradually diminish in size with advancing age.[unreliable source]
During sexual arousal each gland produces a clear, salty, viscous secretion known as pre-ejaculate. This fluid helps to lubricate the urethra for spermatozoa to pass through, neutralizing traces of acidic urine in the urethra, and helps flush out any residual urine or foreign matter.
A study published in Human Fertility in March of 2011 suggests that some human males often or always excrete sperm carried out of the body by Cowper's gland secretions prior to ejaculation, at concentrations similar to those found in their semen. This could result in the possibility of conception from the introduction of pre-ejaculate alone to the vagina, though the direct probability of pregnancy has not been assessed.
- Mark McEntee (December 2, 2012). Reproductive Pathology of Domestic Mammals. Elsevier Science. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-323-13804-8. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Jeffrey H. Schwartz (1988). Orang-utan Biology. Oxford University Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-19-504371-6. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Gray's Anatomy, 38th ed., p 1861.
- Chughtai, Bilal; Ahmed Sawas; Rebecca L. O'Malley; Rohan R. Naik; S. Ali Khan; Srinivas Pentyala (April 2005). "A Neglected Gland: A Review of Cowper's Gland". International Journal of Andrology (Blackwell Publishing) 28 (2): 74–7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2605.2005.00499.x. ISSN 0105-6263. PMID 15811067.
- Stephen R. Killick; Christine Leary; James Trussell; Katherine A. Guthrie (March 2011). "Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid". Human Fertility (Informa) 14 (1): 48–52. doi:10.3109/14647273.2010.520798. ISSN 1464-7273.