Visually responsive neurons were recorded in the superficial layers of rat superior colliculus from postnatal day 12 to 28. Receptive field properties such as size, type (ON, OFF, ON-OFF and motion sensitive) and direction selectivity were analyzed to disclose changes during maturation. Although some aspects of sensory properties are modified during development (latency, receptive field sizes, and proportions of receptive field types), a high level of sophistication is also present in young animals even before eyelid opening. For instance, direction selective and direction biased cells, which require complex synaptic relations, are already observed when the first light evoked responses emerge in the superior colliculus (P13), strongly suggesting that this property develops without visual experience. Furthermore, direction selectivity is present in the colliculus prior to the appearance of visually evoked activity in the cortex. This indicates that direction selectivity can not be attributable to incoming cortical afferents. This study provides the first direct evidence that, unlike the cat, the rat's cortico-tectal pathway is only weakly involved in the establishment of direction selectivity in collicular neurons.