The total content and profile of bile salts and phospholipids are reported for several mammalian biles. Rabbit and guinea-pig biles are characterized by high proportions of conjugated dihydroxy bile salts with respect to trihydroxy bile salts, but contain relatively little phospholipid. Both rabbit and guinea-pig biles exhibit little evidence of hepatic cell damage, even though they are able to cause membrane damage (as evidenced by lysis of human erythrocytes) at low (2-3 mM) concentrations of bile salts; this lytic behaviour is also a property of their predominant bile salts. Addition of phosphatidylcholine to the bile or bile salt is able to decrease the lytic behaviour. Perhaps the most significant observation is that these biles, and their predominant bile salts, are dramatically less lytic towards sheep erythrocytes, indicating that some factor(s) in membrane composition and structure may partly explain the resistance of membranes of the biliary tract to the presence of high concentrations of potentially membrane-damaging bile salts.