The aim of this study was to characterize the pre-natal activity of the respiratory muscles in a non-ruminant, the pig. Tracheal pressure was recorded from 11 unanaesthetized fetal pigs in utero during late gestation in 9 sows. Two types of inspiratory effort occurred episodically in each fetus during each recording period. Episodes of breathing movements lasted 8.6 +/- 1.1 min and their overall incidence was 41.1 +/- 3.4% of recording time. The mean amplitude of the respiratory efforts was 7.6 +/- 1.1 mmHg and the mean inspiratory time was 0.8 +/- 0.1 s. Episodes of non-respiratory inspiratory efforts, considered to be fetal hiccups, lasted 5.6 +/- 0.8 min. Individual hiccups had a duration of 150-200 msec, a mean amplitude of 41.4 +/- 2.4 mmHg and a mean frequency, during episodes, of 21.9 +/- 2.0 min-1. In contrast to fetal breathing movements, hiccups appeared to be stereotyped events. It is concluded that, in common with other ruminant and non-ruminant species, two types of inspiratory effort occur in the fetal pig. Fetal hiccups, which have been observed in non-ruminant species, may be analogous to deep inspiratory efforts in the sheep fetus. The stimulus for, and function of, fetal hiccupping remain to be determined.