Estrous Cycle

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Mouse ovarian follicle

The estrous cycle (British spelling, oestrous) is the main reproductive cycle of other species females of non-primate vertebrates, for example rats, mice, horses, pig have this form of reproductive cycle. Also do not confuse with "estrus", which is a phase of the cycle.

There are also a variety of different forms:

  • Polyestrous Animals - Estrous cycles throughout the year (cattle, pigs, mice, rats).
  • Seasonally Polyestrous Animals - Animals that have multiple estrous cycles only during certain periods of the year (horses, sheep, goats, deer, cats).
  • Monestrous Animals - Animals that have one estrous cycle per year (dogs, wolves, foxes, and bear)

Links: Estrous Cycle | Mouse Estrous Cycle | Ovary | Oocyte Development | Uterus | Menstrual Cycle

Some Recent Findings

  • Bradykinin during estrous cycle of mouse[1] "Thus, this study indicates that the levels of bradykinin and bradykinin B(2)-receptor both simultaneously regulate estrous cycle and are important components for the reproductive process."

Estrous Cycle Stages

The descriptions below refer to the "typical" mammalian cycle.

proestrus - estrus - metestrus - diestrus


The first stage in the estrous cycle immediately before estrus characterized by development of both the endometrium and ovarian follicles.


The second stage in the estrous cycle immediately before metestrus characterized by a receptivity to a male and to mating, often referred to as "heat" or "in heat". Pheromones may also be secreted only at this stage of her cycle.


The third stage in the estrous cycle immediately before diestrus characterized by sexual inactivity and the formation of the corpus luteum.


The last stage in the estrous cycle immediately before the next cycle proestrus characterized by a functional corpus luteum and an increase in the blood concentration of prosgesterone.


Not a stage in the estrous cycle, but a prolonged period of sexual rest where the reproductive system is quiescent.

Rat Estrous Cycle


One of the best characterised reproductive cycles, though different species of rats may differ in reproduction. In general, puberty occurs at 6-8 weeks when the oestrous cycle commences each cycle is 4-5 days.

The estrous cycle is Polyoestrous with an estrous period of approximately 12 hours.

Links: Rat Development | PMID 16195173 | PubMed- rat estrous cycle

Mouse Estrous Cycle


The mouse oestrus cycle is 4-6 days, with oestrus lasting less than 1 day. The estrous cycle stops during lactation except for one oestrus 12-20 hours postpartum. The information below refers to determining the stage of the estrous cycle in the mouse by the appearance of the vagina.[2]

  • Estrous Diestrus - Vagina has a small opening and the tissues are bluish-purple in color and very moist.
  • Proestrus - Vagina is gaping and the tissues are reddish-pink and moist. Numerous longitudinal folds or striations are visible on both the dorsal and ventral lips.
  • Estrus - Vaginal signs are similar to proestrus, but the tissues are lighter pink and less moist, and the striations are more pronounced.
  • Metestrus-1 - Vaginal tissues are pale and dry. Dorsal lip is not as edematous as in estrus.
  • Metestrus-2 - Vaginal signs are similar to metestrus-1, but the lip is less edematous and has receded. Whitish cellular debris may line the inner walls or partially fill the Vagina.

Links: Mouse Estrous Cycle

Pig Estrous Cycle


The feedback systems between the ovaries, uterus, hypothalamus and pituitary gland govern a cycle of events that takes 18-21 days. If conception occurs this cyclic pattern is interrupted and pregnancy is maintained for approximately 114 days. Removal of the sucking stimulus at weaning triggers a new sequence of events.

Links: Pig Development | PubMed- pig estrous cycle

Dog Estrous Cycle

  • Proestrus (9 days) - Precedes estrus, estradiol concentration increases as ovarian follicules mature and the uterus enlarges. The vaginal epithelium proliferates accompanied by diapedesis of erythrocytes (most cells in vaginal smear) from uterine capillaries.
  • Estrus (9 days) - Accompanied by female mating behaviour, glandular secretions increase, the vaginal epithelium becomes hyperemic, and ovulation occurs. Cycle is influenced mainly by estrogens and the interval between successive estrus cycles is about 7 months.
  • Diestrus (70-80 days) - Accompanied by female non-mating behaviour, corpus lutea present and secretes progesterone. Uterine glands undergo hypertrophy and hyperplasia, vaginal secretions and the cervix constricts.
  • Anestrus - Anestrus is a prolonged period of sexual rest where the reproductive system is quiescent.

Links: Dog Development

Bovine Estrous Cycle

Cow and calf

Bovine estrous cycle hormone graph.jpg

Specific hormone concentrations are not shown in the above graph, only the relative hormone levels at different times during the cycle.

Links: Bovine Development


  1. Padmasana Singh, Amitabh Krishna, Rajagopala Sridaran Changes in bradykinin and bradykinin B(2)-receptor during estrous cycle of mouse. Acta Histochem.: 2011, 113(4);436-41 PMID: 20546864
  2. A K Champlin, D L Dorr, A H Gates Determining the stage of the estrous cycle in the mouse by the appearance of the vagina. Biol. Reprod.: 1973, 8(4);491-4 PMID: 4736343



C H Hubscher, D L Brooks, J R Johnson A quantitative method for assessing stages of the rat estrous cycle. Biotech Histochem: 2005, 80(2);79-87 PMID: 16195173

Pei Su, Joyce C Wu, Jeffrey R Sommer, A Jesse Gore, Robert M Petters, William L Miller Conditional induction of ovulation in mice. Biol. Reprod.: 2005, 73(4);681-7 PMID: 15917351

A K Champlin, D L Dorr, A H Gates Determining the stage of the estrous cycle in the mouse by the appearance of the vagina. Biol. Reprod.: 1973, 8(4);491-4 PMID: 4736343

Search Pubmed

Search Pubmed Now: Estrous Cycle | Oestrous Cycle

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2014) Embryology Estrous Cycle. Retrieved October 30, 2014, from

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© Dr Mark Hill 2014, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G