The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of dietary zinc deficiency and diet restriction on bone development in growing rats, and to determine whether any adverse effects could be reversed by dietary repletion. Weanling rats were fed either a zinc-deficient diet ad libitum (ZD; <1 mg zinc/kg) or nutritionally complete diet (30 mg zinc/kg) either ad libitum (CTL) or pair-fed to the intake of the ZD group (DR; diet-restricted) for 3 weeks (deficiency phase) and then all groups were fed the zinc-adequate diet ad libitum for 3, 7, or 23 days (repletion phase). Excised femurs were analyzed for bone mineral density (BMD) using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, and plasma was analyzed for markers of bone formation (osteocalcin) and resorption (Ratlaps). After the deficiency phase, ZD had lower body weight and reduced femur BMD, zinc, and phosphorus concentrations compared with DR; and these parameters were lower in DR compared with CTL. Femur calcium concentrations were unchanged among the groups. Reduced plasma osteocalcin in ZD and elevated plasma Ratlaps in DR suggested that zinc deficiency limits bone formation while diet restriction accelerates bone resorption activity. After 23 days of repletion, femur size, BMD, and zinc concentrations remained lower in ZD compared with DR and CTL. Body weight and femur phosphorus concentrations remained lower in both ZD and DR compared with CTL after repletion. There were no differences in plasma osteocalcin concentrations after the repletion phase, but the plasma Ratlaps concentrations remained elevated in DR compared with CTL. In summary, both ZD and DR lead to osteopenia during rapid growth, but the mechanisms appear to be due to reduced modeling in ZD and higher turnover in DR. Zinc deficiency was associated with a greater impairment in bone development than diet restriction, and both deficiencies limited bone recovery during repletion in growing rats.