Three types of hypertensive rats, and their normotensive controls, were assessed to determine the effects of high blood pressure on the contractile and fatigue properties of the soleus muscle. Spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) soleus developed less contractile force and fatigued more rapidly than normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) controls. In contrast, normotensive Wistar and Wistar-1 kidney/1 renal clip hypertensives were similar in their responses, and Dahl salt-sensitive hypertensives and Dahl salt-resistant controls also did not exhibit any significant differences in tension development or endurance. The results suggest that the decreased ability to develop force and maintain it during stimulation may not be directly related to the high blood pressure in SHR. It may instead be related to a gene defect that cosegregates with the loci responsible for the rise in blood pressure. The reduced endurance in SHR may be associated with an increased accumulation of K+ in the muscle during contraction, which decreases performance. It may also decrease the ability of the vessels to dilate during muscle contraction, preventing maintenance of an adequate blood supply.