The time of appearance of lymphocytes expressing T-cell markers and the subsequent development of the fetal thymus were studied in ovine embryos using a panel of monoclonal antibodies. Leucocyte common antigen (LCA) and major histocompatibility complex class I (MHCI) antigens were seen on a small number of cells within the ovine embryo at Day 19 of gestation. SBU-T6 (CD1)-positive cells were found at Day 22 of gestation, while major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) antigens were first observed at Day 25 of gestation. Large basophilic cells, weakly staining for SBU-T1 (CD5), were present in the mesenchyme of the neck and in the dorsal mediastinum and mesentery of embryonic sheep of 33 days gestational age (g.a.); however, no SBU-T1-positive cells were detected in the thymus at this time. No SBU-T4 (CD4)- or SBU-T8 (CD8)-positive cells were detected in any organs of embryos of this age. SBU-T4- and SBU-T8-positive cells were first seen in fetal thymi, and elsewhere within the fetus, at 35-38 days g.a. SBU-T19-positive cells were first seen within the fetal thymus at 50-58 days g.a.