Bulbourethral glands

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 14 Sep 2021

The bulbourethral glands, a.k.a. Cowper glands, are paired small pea-sized glands of the male reproductive tract, homologous to the female Bartholin glands.

The bulbourethral glands are located in the deep perineal pouch posterolateral to the membranous portion of the male urethra and covered by the external urethral sphincter. Each gland secretes mucus during sexual arousal through individual ducts, 2.5 cm in length, which descend posterolateral and parallel to the membranous urethra through the perineal membrane and corpus spongiosum of the bulb of the penis to enter the floor of the bulbar urethra.

Small unnamed accessory bulbourethral glands may be found in the corpus spongiosum of the bulb of the penis, which secrete similar fluid to the primary glands.

The glands are innervated by sympathetics from the lower segments of the sympathetic chain via the hypogastric nerve.

Lymphatics drain from the gland to the internal iliac and external iliac lymph nodes.

The Cowper glands were named for William Cowper (1666–1709), an English surgeon, who described the detailed anatomy of the bulbourethral glands in 1699. In actuality, the bulbourethral glands were first described by Jean Méry (1645– 1722), a French surgeon in 1684 4. To be fair to Cowper, he never claimed to have discovered his eponymous glands 4!

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: anatomy of the penis (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.