Bovine and caprine milks have a similar overall gross composition, but vary considerably in the ratios of their casein components. These differences cause significant changes in the ability of caseins to bind and stabilize calcium (Ca). It might be expected that these in vitro variations, which are thought to be due to differences in casein phosphopeptides (CPP) content, could lead to in vivo differences in the digestion and absorption of Ca. To test this hypothesis three milks with different casein ratios [bovine (B), caprine high in αs1-casein (CH) and caprine low in αs1-casein (CL)] were compared with regard to Ca absorption and deposition in growing male rats. For comparison, each milk was Ca-fortified (BCa-milk, CHCa-milk, and CLCa-milk) and CPP, prepared by enzymatic hydrolysis from the respective caseins (extrinsic CPP), were added to both native and Ca-milks. The effects of added CPP (extrinsic) could then be compared with intrinsic CPP released from the gastrointestinal digestion of caseins. Total gastric Ca was sampled at 15, 30 and 60 min after ingestion. No differences were found among the native milks with or without CPP, but the Ca from all Ca-milks (regardless of casein type) appeared to clear the stomach more rapidly and this was enhanced by the extrinsic CPP. The total intestinal Ca was not different among the native milks±CPP, however, it rose more rapidly with Ca fortification, and was higher at 30 min for all CPP-Ca-milks. At 60 min the total intestinal Ca level fell for the CPP-Ca-milks while all others continued to rise. These observations suggest that the CPP in Ca-milks enhance gastric clearance and uptake from the intestine. Ca availability from BCa-milk, CHCa-milk, and CLCa-milk with and without CPP was estimated by both plasma and femur uptake of 45Ca. Ca availability was enhanced at 5 h in the plasma in each case by added CPP. In all cases CPP stimulated Ca availability in the femur, but the CL-CPP was higher (P<0·05) than that of either CH-CPP or B-CPP (extrinsic CPP). Based on the results of this study we can conclude that the addition of CPP will have beneficial effect on the absorption of Ca in growing rats from CaCO3 added to bovine and caprine milks.