To study the postnatal maturation of vagal control of airway muscle tone, we determined the effects of vagotomy and supramaximal vagal stimulation on the resistance of the respiratory system in eight newborn and seven 6-wk-old piglets. Because the lung periphery has distinctive responses to cholinergic agonists and a lower density of vagal fibers and cholinergic receptors than the central airways, we partitioned the respiratory resistance of the piglets between central airways (Rc) and peripheral airways and lung tissue (Rp) with bronchial catheters inserted in a retrograde manner. The piglets were anesthetized with alpha-chloralose and ventilated with positive airway pressure. Vagotomy did not change Rc or Rp in either the newborn or the 6-wk-old piglets. Vagal stimulation, on the other hand, increased both Rc (median increase 53% in the newborn and 72% in the 6-wk-old piglets) and Rp (54 and 42%, respectively). At all states of vagal tone, Rp increased as the lungs were inflated, suggesting a large contribution of tissue viscoelasticity to this resistance. Our results demonstrate that vagal bronchomotor tone is absent during mechanical ventilation with positive pressure in the developing piglet. However, vagal innervation of both central airways and tissue contractile elements is functionally competent at the time of birth in this species.