Skeletal muscle capillarity and fibre cross-sectional area were investigated within and between diaphragm (Diaph), extensor digitorum longus (EDL), soleus (SOL) and tibialis anterior (TA) muscles of control and chronic hypoxic (12 % O(2) for 6 weeks) adult male Wistar rats (final body mass approximately 355 g). Cryostat sections were stained for alkaline phosphatase activity to depict all capillaries, and for succinic dehydrogenase to demonstrate regional differences in oxidative capacity within the muscles. Hypoxia-induced angiogenesis occurred in all muscles (P <0.01), with capillary-to-fibre ratio (C:F) being higher in the more active and oxidative muscles, Diaph (27 %) and SOL (26 %), than phasically active and glycolytic muscles, TA (21 %) and EDL (15 %). Diaph, SOL and EDL maintained fibre size, and hence showed an increased capillary density (CD) and reduced intramuscular diffusion distance (DD), whereas TA showed fibre hypertrophy and maintained CD and DD compared to control muscles. The extent of angiogenesis among different regions of muscle varied so as to suggest that muscle fibre size has an additional influence on capillary growth during chronic systemic hypoxia, which is progressive over an extended period of systemic hypoxia.