To determine the developmental trajectory of hippocampal function in rats, we examined 24-h changes in extracellular acetylcholine (ACh) levels and contextual learning performance. Extracellular ACh significantly correlated with spontaneous behavior, exhibiting a 24-h rhythm in juvenile (4-week-old), pubertal (6-week-old), and adult (9- to 12-week-old) rats. Although juveniles of both sexes exhibited low ACh levels, adult males had higher ACh levels than adult females. Moreover, juveniles exhibited much more spontaneous activity than adults when they showed equivalent ACh levels. Similarly, juveniles of both sexes exhibited relatively low contextual learning performance. Because contextual learning performance was significantly increased only in males, adult males exhibited better performance than adult females. We also observed a developmental relationship between contextual learning and ACh levels. Scopolamine pretreatment blocked contextual learning and interrupted the correlation. Since long-term scopolamine treatment after weaning impaired contextual learning in juveniles, the cholinergic input may participate in the development of hippocampus.