Cinematographic measurements of whisker movements generated by behaving rats were compared with electromyographic (EMG) activity recorded simultaneously from mystacial pad musculature. Muscle activity consisted of repetitive bursts, each of which initiated a "whisking" cycle consisting of a protraction followed by a retraction. Protraction amplitude and velocity were directly proportional to the amount of EMG activity during forward whisker movement. Overtime, the intensity of muscle discharge determined the set point about which the vibrissae moved; higher levels of muscle activity resulted in a greater degree of overall whisker protraction. These findings are consistent with the known anatomy of the facial musculature and underscore the importance of whisker protraction in the acquisition of tactile information by the vibrissae.