The relationships between both dietary and empty body fatty acid composition and the morphometry, densitometry, geometry and biomechanical properties of the femur of growing pigs were analysed. A total of thirty-two pigs aged 115 d were divided into four groups (n 8 per group). The pigs were fed either a control diet (group C) or a diet supplemented with linseed oil (rich in α-linolenic acid (C18 : 3n-3), group L), fish oil (rich in EPA (C20 : 5n-3) and DHA (C22 : 6n-3), group F) and beef tallow (rich in SFA, group T). The diets differed in n-3 PUFA contents (0·63–18·52 g/kg) and n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios (0·91–14·51). At 165 d of age, the pigs were slaughtered and the fatty acids in the empty body were determined. Moreover, the left femur was dissected. The cortical wall thickness, cross-sectional area, cortical index, bone mineral content, bone mineral density, maximum elastic strength and maximum strength were lower (P<0·05) in the femurs of pigs from groups C and T than in those from groups F and L. Significant positive correlations were found between the densitometry, geometry and biomechanical properties of the femur and both dietary and empty body n-3 PUFA content, whereas significant negative correlations were observed between the same properties and both dietary and empty body n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio. The results of the present study suggest that in growing pigs α-linolenic acid has a similar positive effect on bone health to that of EPA and DHA.