The effects of cold-stress and hibernation on bone dynamics in the femurs of hamsters were investigated using histometric analyses. Control animals were maintained at 27 degrees C for 90 days; experimental animals were kept at 5 degrees C and hibernated for 7, 15, 21, 50, or 90 days. Histometric analyses of cross sections indicated that bone diameter and cortical thickness at the femoral midshaft increased after 83 days of extreme cold and 7 days of hibernation but decreased significantly after 69 days of cold stress and 21 days of hibernation. Osteoporosis was evident although the number of osteons per unit area of bone increased during hibernation. An initial decrease in the number of non-Haversian longitudinal vessels per unit area of bone was seen in experimental animals which was apparently related to a corresponding reduction in cortical thickness. Lacunar area increased in these animals, suggesting that osteocytic osteolysis may be a significant mechanism for calcium regulation during hibernation.