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Can Emu Interbreed?

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In rare cases, animals of different species and genera interbreed to bear viable hybrids. But since the instances are very uncommon, you might be wondering if emus are one of the few that can interbreed. Well, we’ve got an answer for you.

Can emus interbreed?

There are no hybrids of emus in existence. So, you could say emus cannot interbreed.

Besides, emus are the only species in their genus and family. And this makes them genetically distinct from other animals by a great deal. When animals share minimal or no genus features, interbreeding is almost impossible.

wild emu family in bush at shark bay

Can Emus Interbreed?

There appears to be no record of emu hybrids. So, it is unlikely that emus can interbreed. Besides, the closest animals to emus genetically are the cassowaries. But even they may not share enough genetic material with emus for successful interbreeding.

Emus are the only existing animals in their genus and family; cassowaries only share the same order with them. Animals of different species but the same genus are less likely to interbreed successfully than animals of the same species.

Similarly, animals of different genera but the same family are even less likely to interbreed successfully than animals of the same genera. Basically, as you go higher on the taxonomical scheme, the likelihood of successful interbreeding between animals from different hierarchies tends towards zero.

So, since emus and cassowaries belong to different genera and families, they are not likely to interbreed successfully.

Can Two Related Birds Mate?

Inbreeding is possible with emus. However, it is not ideal.

Allowing two related emu birds to breed might be a quick fix for the absence of an unrelated breeding pair. But in the long run, inbreeding may have detrimental effects on the bloodline.

In one such instance, a female emu bred with her offspring. Unfortunately, after some generations, the emu chicks developed leg problems.

Mother emu with emu chicks looking for food to eat

Will the Offspring Have Issues? Is This Normal in Birds?

Generally, the offspring of inbreeding have issues. These issues may not manifest in the first generation, but they will show up at some point for sure.

Generally, amongst birds, inbreeding weakens genetic information, and this causes loss of fitness and inbreeding depression. In other words, inbred offspring have a lower survival rate and a shorter lifespan. Birds resulting from inbreeding may also be sickly, sterile, and physically weak.

Inbreeding is not necessarily normal amongst birds. However, not all birds can avoid inbreeding, especially when in captivity.

Are Emus Monogamous?

Emus are generally monogamous. They typically move around in tight breeding pairs for the most part of the year. However, there are also hints of polyandry and promiscuity in their mating pattern.

A study revealed that some male emus approach other female emus besides their mate. Some of these male emus even leave their mates for other female emus.

The study further revealed that any male emu promiscuity typically occurs before sitting on the eggs. Once incubation starts, male emus stay with the eggs for up to 8 weeks. So, they really have no opportunity to be promiscuous.

The study further states that some female emus are polyandrous. However, contrary to the male emus, these female emus become polyandrous after their mate has started incubating the eggs.

Do They Mate for Life?

In the wild, emus do not mate for life.

While they may form a pair bond for up to 5 months, the females typically go after other mates after laying enough eggs in one nest.

In other words, when her current mate starts incubating, a female emu may go in search of another mate.

In captivity, the story may be different. If you have only a single breeding pair of emus, they may mate for life. Since neither of them has any other bird to mate with, they will have no choice but to stick with each other.

How to Tell if an Emu Is Male or Female?

Depending on their age, you can tell an emu is male or female through various methods. We discuss some of them below.

To determine the gender of emu chicks, you can try out the following methods:

Vent Sexing

If you intend to vent sex your emu chicks, do this early, preferably before moving them to the brooder.

To vent sex emu chicks, follow these steps:

  • Wear a pair of latex gloves.
  • Turn the chick upside down, then part the feathers around its cloaca gently.
  • With your forefinger and thumb, apply slight pressure to either side of the cloaca. You could do this in a gentle kneading motion. This way, the chick will feel as little pain as possible.
  • Applying pressure to either side of the cloaca, as described above, should make the chick’s genitalia pop out.
  • If a bluish, purplish, or pinkish rosebud-shaped triangle appears, the chick is female, and that is its clitoris.
  • If a little white or grey stem with a white tip appears, the chick is male, and that stem is its penis.
  • If no sexual organ pops out after vent sexing, cull the chick.

Feather Pattern

An emu bird walking outside the fence

You can also figure out the gender of an emu through its feather pattern. Female emu plumage has a line pattern. The male plumage, on the other hand, has a bulls-eye outline.

Emu chicks with salt and pepper pattern cannot reproduce. So, cull any such chick.

When emus are 3 to 14 months, it can be hard to tell their genders apart. During that period, their plumage will have become all brown, so you cannot differentiate them visually. Also, their sexual organs do not really grow when they are at that age. So, they can be hard to spot.

When emus become mature, however, you can figure out their gender using the following method:


When female emus mature, their voice becomes distinct from that of the males.

Female emus make a guttural drumming sound in two pitches. One of these pitches is deep and rich, and it sounds like a drum. The other is high-pitched and fast, and they make this sound while experiencing stress or excitement.

Unlike the females, male emus make various grunting sounds. They may also whistle while with the chicks.

Manual Sexing

You can also tell male and female emus apart by manually sexing them. To do this, ensure you restrain the emus properly, then follow these steps:

  • Wear a pair of latex gloves.
  • Insert a finger in the emu’s cloaca.
  • With your finger in the cloaca, you have 2 options: palpation or visual examination.
  • If you choose palpation, all you have to do is feel for the presence or absence of hard cartilage. If the emu has hard cartilage, it is male. But if it doesn’t, it is female.
  • If you prefer visual examination, you must evert the emu’s sexual organ. To do this, feel the underside of the sexual organ while your finger is in the cloaca. Then apply firm pressure on the organ until it appears.
  • The clitoris of female emus appears as a soft tissue with no ostium in its tip. Its size ranges from 1.75 inches downwards.
  • The non-erect penis of male emus appears as a short, firm cartilaginous base with ostium in its tip. The ostium houses the non-cartilaginous part of the penis that extends following arousal.

Watch Their Behavior During the Breeding Season

You can also tell the gender of emus apart by watching them during the breeding season.

When emus mate, male emus mount the females. This is one way to figure out the gender of your emus.

You can also tell the gender of emus through their eggs. Female emus lay eggs while male emus incubate them.

Final Thoughts

Emus are too genetically distinct from their closest relatives, the cassowary, to interbreed. Besides, there are no records of an emu hybrid, so you can conclude that they do not interbreed.

But while emus do not interbreed, they may inbreed. Unfortunately, inbreeding is unfavorable for emus; it may weaken their bloodline.


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