Several experiments were carried out to study the effects of peridural anesthesia (Sylvocaine, 6 ml between sacrum and 1st caudal vertebra) performed either at the first signs of birth (early peridural: EP), or little before expulsion (late peridural: LP). When performed late, peridural anesthesia altered maternal behavior only slightly when compared with controls. By contrast severe deficits were observed in the case of EP. Seven out of 8 primiparae failed to show interest for their lamb within 30 min of the birth of the young (vs. 1/9 in LP group, p less than 0.01). In multiparae these proportions were 8/27 and 0/22 respectively (p less than 0.01). Within the EP group the effects of the peridural were more marked in primiparous than in multiparous mothers (p less than 0.05). Even in EP multiparous ewes becoming maternal within 5 min after giving birth a reduction in duration of licking was noted, when compared with the LP group (p less than 0.05). On the other hand, these same ewes established normally a selective bond within 2 hours after giving birth, as did the LP or control ewes. These results confirm the importance of genital stimulation for the rapid onset of maternal behavior in parturient ewes. They failed however to clarify the role played by genital stimulation in the establishment of a selective maternal bond.