Transecting the thoracic spinal cord of the rat has markedly different effects on behavioral responses of the hindlimbs if the lesion is made at the neonatal or weanling stage of development. The present investigation tested the possibility that the behavioral differences were related to a difference in the distribution or density of dorsal root connections in the lumbosacral spinal cord. In order to use each animal as its own control the distribution and density of dorsal root axons was compared on the two sides of the L5-S1 segments of the lumbosacral spinal cord in adult rats given a mid-thoracic spinal hemisection at the neonatal or weanling stage of development. Comparing the experimental (initially hemisected side) and control sides of the cord, we found no evidence for a change in the distribution of dorsal root axons. The distribution of Fink-Heimer stained degeneration 4--6 days after bilateral spinal root section was virtually identical on the two sides of the cord from animals hemisected at either stage. However, in rats spinally hemisected at the neonatal stage (n = 8), a significantly greater density of dorsal root degeneration was found within the intermediate nucleus of Cajal (INC) on the experimental side using coded material and a blind analysis. No difference in the density of dorsal root degeneration was detected in the group of rats spinally hemisected at the weanling stage (n = 6). Controls indicated that the increased density of degeneration was not due to compression resulting from shrinkage of the INC or to degeneration remaining from the initial hemisection. We conclude that the increased amount of argyrophilia within the INC of neonatally hemisected rats is due to an increased density of dorsal root axons in this zone. This result supports the hypothesis that the behavioral differences found when comparing animals transected at the neonatal or weanling stages of development are related to an increased number of dorsal root connections within the lumbosacral spinal cord.