The relationship between parasternal intercostal length and rib cage cross-sectional area was examined in nine supine dogs during passive inflation and during quiet breathing before and after phrenicotomy. Parasternal intercostal length (PSL) was measured with a sonomicrometry technique, and rib cage cross-sectional area (Arc) was measured with a Respitrace coil placed around the middle rib cage. During active inspiration as well as during passive inflation, PSL decreased as Arc increased. However, the relationship between PSL and Arc during active inspiration, whether in the intact or phrenicotomized animal, was almost invariably different from that during passive inflation, so that the same increase in Arc was associated with a greater decrease in PSL in the former than in the latter instance. This difference between passive inflation and active inspiration is probably due to the active contraction of the parasternals during inspiration and the consequent caudal displacement of the sternum. In upright humans, the sternum moves cephalad and not caudad during inspiration, so the relationship between PSL and Arc during active breathing might be similar to that during passive inflation.