The canine baculum: The structure and mechanical properties of an unusual bone

A. Sharir, D. Israeli, J. Milgram, J. D. Currey, E. Monsonego-Ornan, R. Shahar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The baculum is an extraskeletal bone located in the penis of a few species in several orders of mammals such as carnivores, insectivores, rodents, bats and primates.This study aims to describe the structure, architecture and mechanical properties of the canine baculum. To this end canine bacula from castrated and uncastrated dogs were collected and examined by light microscopy, micro-computed tomography (microCT) scanning, histological staining, and mechanical testing. Their mineral density and mechanical properties were compared with those of a typical skeletal bone (the radius) in the same dog. Furthermore, a numerical model of a representative baculum was created and its mechanical performance analyzed using the finite element method, in order to try to elucidate its function.Examination of light microscopy images of transverse sections shows that the baculum consists of a typical sandwich structure, with two cortical plates separated, and joined, by loose cancellous bone. MicroCT scans reveal that the mineral density is lower in the baculum than in the radius, both in castrated as well as in uncastrated dogs, resulting in much lower stiffness. Castration was found to decrease the mineral density in both the baculum and the radius.The most likely function of the baculum of the dog is to stiffen the penis to assist intromission, and its much lower mineral density compared to that of the radius may be a mechanism designed to decrease the stiffness somewhat, and thus reduce the risk of fracture during copulation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)451-456
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Baculum
  • Bone mineral density
  • Mechanical properties


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