SUMMARY The bemodynamic alterations associated with the developmental phase of high blood pressure were investigated in the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR). All hemodynamic measurements were made in unanesthetized, unrestrained SHR and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats instrumented with chronic electromagnetic flow probes on the ascending aorta and arterial pressure catheters. Rats were studied at 30-41 days, 80 days and 120 days of age. Hemodynamics of SHRs and WKYs in the 30-41 day group were monitored daily. Spontaneously hypertensive rats demonstrated a higher cardiac index than WKYs (p < 0.05) from 32 through 41 days of age. Total peripheral resistance (TPR) was not elevated in SHRs at this time. Heart rate and stroke index were elevated in SHRs (p < 0.05) from 34 through 41 days, however, stroke volume was not At 80 and 120 days SHRs had higher mean arterial pressure (MAP) and TPR than WKYs (p < 0.05), although cardiac index was not significantly different. This hemodynamic pattern of a hyperkinetic circulation prior to the development of hypertension supports the theory of total body autoregulation. A transient increase in cardiac index precedes an increase in TPR, which then normalizes cardiac index while elevating MAP.