The late fetal development of rat extra-ocular and masticatory muscles was examined by myosin immunohistochemistry. The pattern of slow and neonatal myosin isoform expression in primary and secondary myotubes in these muscles was generally similar to that seen by others in limb muscles. We observed a consistent difference between the Sprague-Dawley and Wistar rats in the degree of maturity reached by all muscles studied at a particular age. In both strains, extra-ocular muscles were also about one day in advance of the masticatory muscles. Thus, secondary myotubes were first seen at E17 in Wistar extraocular muscles, at E18 in Sprague-Dawley extra-ocular muscles and Wistar masticatory muscles, and at E19 in Sprague-Dawley masticatory muscles. There was a strikingly early and complete type differentiation of primary myotubes in extraocular muscles, and tonic myosin first appeared before birth in presumptive extrafusal tonic fibres in the orbital layer of the oculorotatory muscles. Throughout the late fetal period, retractor bulbi was composed of fast myotubes only, but these myotubes were not arranged in classical clusters. In the masticatory muscles at E17/E18 some slow primary myotubes started to express tonic myosin, and these presumptive spindle bag2 fibres were located only in regions of the muscles known to contain spindles in the adult. Presumptive bag1 fibres appeared about a day later (initially without tonic myosin), and in the region of the spindle cluster in anterior deep masseter extrafusal secondary myotube production appeared to be suppressed.