Primary afferent nerve fibers to the spinal cord in the adult rat were labeled by applying horseradish peroxidase to the cut end of one of the following hindlimb nerves; the tibial, medial plantar, lateral plantar, common peroneal, saphenous, sural, lateral femoral cutaneous or obturator nerve. Maximal labeling intensity was found in the dorsal horn after 36-72 h survival. Labeling was observed in different dorsal horn laminae at different levels within the L1-S1 spinal cord segments, depending on which nerve horseradish peroxidase had been exposed to, probably reflecting the individual composition of afferent fiber types. Although a certain overlap was found, the central projections of the eight different nerves investigated formed well delineated three dimensional compartments within the medial 2/3 to 3/4 of the dorsal horn. This was most clearly discernible in lamina II. Although interindividual differences were present, bilaterally identical operations gave symmetrical projection patterns in the dorsal horn. The results indicate that dorsal horn projections of hindlimb nerves are organized in a highly ordered somatotopic fashion.