For thousands of years, men and women have wanted to control the sex of their babies. Just like there were weird ways to test for pregnancy, there were all kinds of ways to determine the gender of a baby during pregnancy. Kings like Henry VIII wanted sons to ensure their royal lineage, and merchants wanted to avoid too many daughters so they didn't go broke because of rising dowry costs. Not surprisingly, most of these crazy theories about determining gender were about having a boy.
These methods for how to know the gender of the baby during pregnancy at home used a lot of common objects: bananas, parsley, and bread, for example. But some of the ways people tried to determine gender were pretty crazy, like eating rabbits' unmentionables or even chopping off a man’s right nad.
All of these home remedies to know the gender of a baby required dedication, from rubbing a woman with goose grease to testing the winds before conception. Some even advised getting it on right before a woman’s period.
Men who only sort of wanted a boy could drink cola, but the truly committed took even more drastic actions. According to an 18th-century French text, The Art of Boys, the best way to guarantee a male baby was to cut off the left testicle. The left side was clearly where girls came from, so once it was gone, a man was biologically incapable of having a girl.
Of course, this theory was completely wrong. The men who did self-castrate were probably very disappointed!
Pliny the Elder reported in his Natural History that tying up one testicle can determine the sex of an animal’s offspring. The method was guaranteed with sheep, Pliny promised. “If a ligature is put on the right testicle [the ram] gets females and if on the left, males.” Others pointed out that the same held true for cattle.
Pliny was silent on whether the same technique applied to humans, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that some Roman tried.
The Trotula, a 12th-century medical text, had some interesting advice for women who want to conceive a male child. “Let her husband take the womb and the vagina of a hare and let him dry them, and let him mix the powder with wine and drink it.”
But before you start stalking rabbits, keep reading. “Let the woman do the same thing with the testicles of a hare, and at the end of her period let her lie with her husband and then she will conceive a male.” This advice is clearly only for people who are really serious about having a son.
Sex-selection theories are nothing new in human history. As early as 2000 BCE, people were writing down tips for controlling the sex of your baby. An Egyptian papyrus written 4,000 years ago said that women with a greenish cast would certainly have boys.
Once you’ve found a green-skinned woman, she can perform a pregnancy test that will predict the sex of her baby. She should urinate on emmer and barley, and if the barley grows, she is pregnant with a boy.