The size, number, distribution and dendritic morphology of displaced retinal ganglion cells (DGCs) in normal Chinese hamsters were investigated using horseradish peroxidase. The diameters of DGC soma ranged from 4 to 23 microns (mean 11.7 microns). The number of DGCs ranged from 104 to 453 (mean 249) and constituted under 1% of total retinal ganglion cells. DGCs were found in all retinal regions, but more frequently in the lower temporal periphery. Two types of DGCs were observed, one with a small to medium soma (< 18 microns in diameter) and a small dendritic field (< 100 microns in diameter), and the other with a large soma (> or = 18 microns in diameter) and a large dendritic field (> or = 100 microns in diameter). DGCs in the Chinese hamster may be developmental errors or misplaced ganglion cells.