As you may know, testicles typically come as a set of two. Yet, they’re housed in one scrotal sack. They’re truly two peas in a pod. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to be born with each pea in their own pod — as in, the two testicles are essentially separated, each in their own little scrotal sack, thanks to a cleft that has formed a division between them. This phenomenon is more commonly known as bifid scrotum, and while it might not immediately sound so bad, it’s typically associated with greater physiological problems.
Often, bifid scrotum is linked to a condition called hypospadias, wherein the urethral opening isn’t located at the tip of the penis. It can be just a little bit out of place, sitting elsewhere on the head of the penis, or it can be much further off, opening on the scrotum or shaft. Depending on the severity, hypospadias is typically treated with surgery in infancy. Because a bifid scrotum is often the result of the form of hypospadias where the urethra is located on the scrotum, the testicular separation is usually treated alongside the hypospadias.
As such, we don’t often see many cases of bifid scrotum in adults — while someone may have been born with it, it was likely treated early in their life. As for what exactly causes it, it’s not totally clear. In 2017, research published in the Journal of Pediatric Urology explored how regularly genetic testing is performed on children with bifid scrotums, and what this genetic testing has revealed. Of 110 subjects, 84 percent had severe hypospadias, 64 percent had received genetic testing and 23 percent of those (or 15 percent of the total cohort) had received a diagnosis. Among those with a diagnosis, sex chromosome abnormalities, non-sex chromosome abnormalities, androgen receptor mutation and Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome were found. In other words, there were a wide variety of possible genetic links to bifid scrotum, rather than one concrete cause.
Furthermore, 50 percent of the subjects were born at least three weeks prematurely. In addition to bifid scrotum, 42 of the 110 had at least one other “abnormality,” ranging from growth issues, cardiac problems, neurological delays and more. Only two of the 110 children with bifid scrotum had no other problems associated with it, or mild hypospadias not requiring surgery.
Despite its rarity, we do actually have one relic demonstrating a case of bifid scrotum in an Etrisco-Latin terracotta bust dating 200-300 B.C. While the specifics of the bust’s creation remain unknown, it’s thought that it may have been created as a religious offering in hopes of the ailment being cured or in hopes of sexual success. The penis itself is missing from the statue, but it offers a pretty clear example at what bifid scrotums can look like.
There may have been nothing to do about a bifid scrotum back in 200-300 B.C., but today’s medical technology generally makes it fixable and therefore even more uncommon. In any case, it’s just another anomaly to add to the long list of dick-related occurrences. Maybe give your unified ball sack a little extra love today.