Spheroid cell culture emerges as powerful in vitro tool for experimental tumour research. In this study, we established a scaffold-free three-dimensional spheroid system built from canine osteosarcoma (OS) cells (D17). Spheroids (7, 14 and 19 days of cultivation) and monolayer cultures (2 and 7 days of cultivation) were evaluated and compared on light and electron microscopy. Monolayer and spheroid cultures were tested for vimentin, cytokeratin, alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin and collagen I by means of immunohistochemistry. The spheroid cell culture exhibited a distinct network of collagen I in particular after 19-day cultivation, whereas in monolayer cultures, collagen I was arranged as a lamellar basal structure. Necrotic centres of large spheroids, as observed in 14- and 19-day cultures, were characterized by significant amounts of osteocalcin. Proliferative activity as determined by Ki-67 immunoreactivity showed an even distribution in two-dimensional cultures. In spheroids, proliferation was predominating in the peripheral areas. Metastasis-associated markers ezrin and S100A4 were shown to be continuously expressed in monolayer and spheroid cultures. We conclude that the scaffold-free spheroid system from canine OS cells has the ability to mimic the architecture of the in vivo tumour, in particular cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions.