• James E Aarons DVM

Polishing Tonto's Knob


Smegma and bean are two horse terms a young vet needs to understand to maintain a respected standing among gelding owners. When a client called suggesting her horse Tonto must have a bean in his penis because he is swollen down between the back legs it suggests he needs his penis cleaned. This is a maintenance issue more than anything else.

Tonto's preputial area, the cowling protecting his penis is swollen because of the smegma and bean buildup.

Besides being an ugly word to write and say, smegma is a rather disgusting substance. Secreted from a specialized sebaceous gland, smegma is the cheesy sebaceous matter that collects between the glans penis and the foreskin.

Some smarty-pants have advocated setting up a smegma-cheese making endeavor, but unfortunately for the horse, smegma doesn't stay very cheesy. When combined with dirt, dead skin cells, and sweat, it can accumulate into a thick paste, becoming shapely and firm to touch when it hangs around the tip of the gelding's penis.

Smegma cheese is soft and covered in a thin layer of skin. It has an unusual scent similar to that of sweat and human male pheromones. Upon taste it is actually quite a mild cheese although it is considered by some to be too salty. The skin is usually not eaten. Spoofed from http://editthis.info/bluesockapedia/Smegma

The “bean” is a common name for a specific collection of smegma in the tip of the penis. The tube that drains the urine from the bladder is called the urethra, and it protrudes slightly from the center of the head of the penis. Just above the urethra is a recess, a space, called the urethral fossa. This area extends to the left and right over the urethra, making it BEAN shaped. Smegma can accumulate within the space, and has to be manually removed. Hence the term finding Mr. Bean.

The smegma and cells that come from the penis often cling to it and flake off like parchment or rippled potato chips. Because they still have their balls, stallions have opportunities to become aroused and breed. This behavior expels smegma accumulations. Still, commercial breeding stallions have their penises gently cleaned prior to live cover or artificial collection to prevent infections and keep the ejaculate schmutz-free. Removing their sex drive by castrating makes them much safer to be around, but doesn’t allow them to “self-clean”.

The smegma has formed a potentially dangerous bean, and requires removal to return Tonto to his peaceful unworried existence.

Here I am pushing tranquilizer into the left jugular vein to sedate the horse.

Most geldings need a sheath cleaning once or twice a year. The horse typically holds his penis retracted up inside the sheath until he needs to urinate. Drugging accomplishes two things; it drops the penis, allowing me to wash and shine it easier, and slows the horse from kicking while I am attending to his problem. Many react violently by kicking or biting when that sensitive area is touched or approached. I tranquilize them so the penis drops down, allowing visualization and thorough cleaning, and decreasing the danger to myself. Using a mild soap, water, and cotton, the stuff is removed, and then the area is rinsed.

The sedative causes Tonto to lower his heavy head. It also glues the feet to the ground.

Here's the bean peeking at me on the left side of then urethra.

Here's what is looks like when removed. It's rounded edges and mildly firm texture cause discomfort but not usually bleeding unless flies lay eggs around the tip and maggots appear. I would certainly have looked for gloves if maggots were present, but this is normal smegma, about the hardness of Parmesan Cheese, or maybe an aged Monterey Jack.

Here's the handsome vet explaining how he's attending to the woman's horse.

Here' the handsome vet working on swollen penis problem, gently washing away the larger potato chip size flakes further along the shaft. The sun was bright that day, artificially causing the Doctor's hair to make him look older than he is.

Mooki is attentively focused on watching, hoping a tasty treat will come his way. Notice how I stand looking at the back legs, and am crouched in readiness to jump sideways as soon as I suspect the horse shifts his feet into a kick.

Although I found what I was searching for, Mooki is disappointed I found only a bean. On more productive calls he'd actually be given a testicle or two, or maybe some trimmings from the hoof, depending on the type of call and whether other dogs are hungry too.

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