The relationships between the development of antral follicles (growing from 3 to > or = 5 mm diameter), hormone secretion (luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimlating hormone (FSH), oestradiol and progesterone), ovulation and the formation of luteal structures in response to gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) were examined in 24 anoestrous Western White Face ewes (May-July). Ewes were monitored by transrectal ovarian ultrasonography for 34 days, commencing 15 days before the administration of GnRH. Following treatment with GnRH, 83% (20/24) of ewes ovulated. Twenty-five per cent of all ewes (6/24) subsequently had normal (full-life span) corpora lutea (CL), 37% (9/24) had inadequate CL, 17% (4/24) had both normal and inadequate CL, 17% (including three of four anovular ewes and one ewe with inadequate CL) formed luteinized follicles and only 4% (1/24) did not ovulate or produce any luteal structure. None of the variables of follicular growth (follicles reaching > or = 5 mm diameter) differed between follicles that either ovulated or failed to ovulate and there was no evident correlation between the age or stage of development of ovulatory sized antral follicles and the type of luteal structure formed, except for luteinized unovulated follicles; these follicles all emerged within 3 days of GnRH injection. Mean serum concentrations of FSH and oestradiol before treatment did not differ (P>0.05) between ewes with different ovarian responses, but peaks of fluctuations in serum concentrations of FSH in daily samples were higher in ewes that produced normal CL compared with ewes with inadequate CL. After GnRH treatment, oestradiol secretion was higher in ewes that formed luteinized unovulated follicles than in all ewes with inadequate CL (P<0.05). The peak concentration of the GnRH-induced LH surge was higher and the interval from GnRH to peak LH discharge was shorter in ewes with inadequate CL compared with ewes that had normal CL after ovulation (P<0.05). In conclusion, ovulatory sized antral follicles at a similar stage of their life span can give rise to either normal or inadequate CL and a proportion of these follicles do not ovulate in response to GnRH in seasonally anoestrous ewes. This suggests differences in ovarian follicular responsiveness to gonadotrophic stimuli. Both the amplitude of episodic elevations in daily serum FSH concentrations and the characteristics of the pre-ovulatory LH surge may be important for luteogenesis following ovulation.