Previous studies have implicated fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) in limb development. However, the precise nature and complexity of its role have not been defined. Here, we dissect Fgfr1 function in mouse limb by conditional inactivation of Fgfr1 using two different Cre recombinase-expressing lines. Use of the T (brachyury)-cre line led to Fgfr1 inactivation in all limb bud mesenchyme (LBM) cells during limb initiation. This mutant reveals FGFR1 function in two phases of limb development. In a nascent limb bud, FGFR1 promotes the length of the proximodistal (PD) axis while restricting the dimensions of the other two axes. It also serves an unexpected role in limiting LBM cell number in this early phase. Later on during limb outgrowth, FGFR1 is essential for the expansion of skeletal precursor population by maintaining cell survival. Use of mice carrying the sonic hedgehog(cre) (Shh(cre)) allele led to Fgfr1 inactivation in posterior LBM cells. This mutant allows us to test the role of Fgfr1 in gene expression regulation without disturbing limb bud growth. Our data show that during autopod patterning, FGFR1 influences digit number and identity, probably through cell-autonomous regulation of Shh expression. Our study of these two Fgfr1 conditional mutants has elucidated the multiple roles of FGFR1 in limb bud establishment, growth and patterning.