Whereas a large body of data is available on the control of hand motoneurones from the brain, not much is known about the contribution of the spinal interneuronal apparatus to the differentiated movement repertoire of the hand. This review summarises recent data on the excitatory Ia pathways and on recurrent inhibition for cats, monkeys and humans. The basic principles of organisation have, in general, been preserved in the different species. Thus the motoneurones to cat and human long and short digit muscles seem not to possess a recurrent axon collateral system. With regard to the Ia pathways, specialised connectivity patterns have developed in the long digit extensor and wrist extensor muscles. They allow the former group to support the differentiated movement repertoire of the digits, and the latter group to be part of a general extensor or flexor synergism. Modifications between the species are present, however, with regard to the proximodistal connectivity across the elbow. Whereas they are regularly present in the cat, they are less developed in the monkey and absent in man, which frees the human hand from the elbow position.