Twitch characteristics of tibialis anterior muscles in situ were examined in stress-susceptible and normal swine. Three groups of pigs were studied: (1) purebred Pietrain stress-susceptible, (2) purebred Yorkshire normal, and (3) a crossbred (Pietrain-Yorkshire) litter containing both stress-susceptible and normal animals. Purebred and crossbred stress-susceptible pigs provided qualitatively similar results, as did purebred and crossbred normal pigs. Single stimuli produced greater than normal peak tensions and faster rates of tension development in stress-susceptible animals. Multiple stimuli (2-6 pulses at 5-ms intervals) increased peak tensions and rates of tension development, but did not augment differences between normal and stress-susceptible pigs. Intravenous administration of dantrolene reduced peak tensions and rates of tension development in all groups for single and multiple stimuli. However, the reduction was significantly less (P < 0.01) for stress-susceptible pigs. Multiple stimuli (4-6 pulses) plus dantrolene amplified differences (P < 0.01) in contractile properties between normal and stress-susceptible skeletal muscles, with stress-susceptible muscles obtaining larger peak tensions and faster rates of tension development. Normal and stress-susceptible pigs may, therefore, be distinguished by these procedures.