Rockland and Lung [Rockland, K. S. & Lung, J. S. (1982) Science 215, 1532-1534] have recently observed that an injection of horseradish peroxidase into the striate cortex of the tree shrew produces a patchy distribution of label adjacent to the injection site. They proposed that this pattern might be due to populations of neurons with long-range cortico-cortical connections that are interspersed with populations having no such connections. We suggest here an alternative explanation. We can account for the pattern by supposing that the label is carrier by a system of oriented axons. We suppose that these axons link cells with similar orientation preferences and make their connections within a narrow strip of cortex whose direction is related to the orientation of the cells in question. We suggest that such connections could be involved in generating complex receptive fields from simple ones. Other possibilities are that they are used to generate very elongated receptive fields, inhibitory flanks, or end-stopping. We suggest a number of experimental tests of these ideas.