Intracerebroventricular administration of oxytocin to virgin female rats that had been ovariectomized and primed with estrogen 48 hours previously induced a rapid onset of full maternal behavior. The maternal behavior persisted and its incidence was dose-related. Tocinoic acid, the ring structure of oxytocin, also rapidly induced the onset of persistent, full maternal behavior. Arginine vasopressin induced persistent maternal behavior, but this behavior had a later onset. Prostaglandin F2 alpha induced strong partial maternal behavior, which showed early onset but did not persist. Many other peptides, ovarian steroids, and prostaglandin E2 were no more effective than saline. These findings suggest that the release of oxytocin and prostaglandin F2 alpha during labor may promote maternal behavior in rats.