Target field innervation in the developing vertebrate nervous system coincides with the onset of important trophic interactions. Two factors that determine the timing of this event are the distance axons have to grow to reach their targets, which are known to vary, and the rate at which they grow. There have been few studies of axonal growth rate at this stage of development and no comparative study of the relationship between growth rate and target distance. Embryonic chick cranial sensory neurons are located in discrete ganglia and the distance axons have to grow to reach their targets is different for each ganglion, ranging from several hundred to several thousand microns. Here, I show that these neurons differ in their in vivo growth rates; neurons with more distant targets growing faster. In vitro, single isolated neurons from each of these populations grow at a similar rate to that observed in vivo, indicating that growth rate is an intrinsically determined property of neurons before they reach their targets.