We investigated the immunohistochemical localisation of types II and X collagen as well as the cytochemical localisation of alkaline phosphatase in the developing condylar cartilage of the fetal mouse mandible on d 14–16 of pregnancy. On d 14 of pregnancy, although no immunostaining for types II and X collagen was observed, alkaline phosphatase activity was detected in all cells in the anlage of the future condylar process. On d 15 of pregnancy, immunostaining for both collagen types was simultaneously detected in the primarily formed condylar cartilage. Alkaline phosphatase activity was also detected in chondrocytes at this stage. By d 16 of pregnancy, the hypertrophic cell zone rapidly increased in size. These findings strongly support a periosteal origin for the condylar cartilage of the fetal mouse mandible, and show that progenitor cells for condylar cartilage rapidly or directly differentiate into hypertrophic chondrocytes.