Hereditary absence of the corpus callosum (CC) provides an ideal experiment of nature for exploring mechanisms of axon guidance. In this study the prenatal development of CC axons in the acallosal mouse strains BALB/cWah1 and 129/ReJ or J was compared with normal hybrid mice by using the lipophilic dyes DiI and DiA. A few I/LnJ mice were also examined. The time of emergence and growth rate of CC axons from four cortical regions (frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital) were normal in acallosal strains. Their CC axons arrived at midplane on schedule but then often looped back to form the longitudinal Probst bundle. The frequency of formation of the Probst bundle was highest for axons from frontal cortex, which arrived at midplane first, and lowest for occipital axons, which arrived last. Once a few CC axons found a path to the other side via the hippocampal commissure, those that arrived later then crossed relatively normally. Some axons from the Probst bundle also managed to traverse midline in this manner. When no CC axons crossed, almost all of them entered the Probst bundle and eventually left it within a few hours to proceed in the ipsilateral white matter, never turning back toward midplane. Growth cones approaching midplane ipsilaterally and those that had crossed midline and entered contralateral white matter, as well as CC axons in the Probst bundle, expressed a normal range of size and complexity. These results demonstrate that the problem with callosal agenesis resides not in the cells of origin or the axons or growth cones themselves but in the substrates of axon guidance at the midsagittal plane.