Testis structure and function in dogs are relatively poorly investigated. The aim of the present study was to carry out a comparative investigation of the stages of the seminiferous epithelium cycle and its duration in different breeds of dog. Fifty-six sexually mature dogs (mongrel, n = 12; pinscher, n = 12; beagle, n = 5; American pit bull, n = 9; poodle, n = 12; and Labrador retriever, n = 6) were analysed. Intratesticular injections of tritiated thymidine were given to determine the duration of spermatogenesis. Orchiectomy was performed at different time periods following injection (1 h, 2 and 4 weeks). Testis fragments were embedded in plastic and routinely prepared for histological and autoradiographic evaluations. Eight stages were characterized based on the acrosome system. Significant (P < 0.05) differences were found for the frequencies of the different stages characterized (except Stages V, VI and VIII), particularly for the mongrel. Stage IV (when spermiation occurs) was the most frequent in all six breeds (~25%), whereas Stages II and VIII were the least frequent (< 8%). Each spermatogenic cycle and the total duration of spermatogenesis lasted 13.73 +/- 0.03 and 61.9 +/- 0.14 days, respectively, for the mongrel, poodle, pinscher, beagle, and Labrador retriever. These values were approximately 10% lower (P < 0.03) for the American pit bull (12.55 +/- 0.26 and 56.5 +/- 1.17 days, respectively). To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive study to perform a careful investigation of stage frequencies and seminiferous epithelium cycle duration in this very important domestic species.