This study reports the metabolic and morphological characteristics of bovine intermuscular adipose tissue (AT) throughout foetal growth. Our hypothesis was that the histological and molecular features of intermuscular AT would be different from those previously reported for foetal perirenal AT, based on its anatomical location near the muscle and the recent identification of two distinct adipocyte precursors in mouse AT depending on their locations. To address this question, intermuscular AT was sampled from Charolais and Blond d'Aquitaine foetuses at 180, 210 and 260 days post conception (dpc). The two bovine breeds were chosen because of the higher adiposity of Charolais than Blond d'Aquitaine cattle during the postnatal life. Regardless of the breed, adipocyte volume increased slightly (+38%, P < 0.01) with increasing foetal age. This was concomitant with a decrease (P < 0.05) in the activity of enzymes involved in de novo fatty acid (FA) synthesis (FA synthase and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) and FA esterification (glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase) when expressed per million adipocytes, and with an increase (P ⩽ 0.01) in mRNA abundances for uncoupling protein 1, adiponectin and leptin (LEP) between 180 and 260 dpc. No difference was observed in the adipocyte volume between breeds, which was consistent with the lack of major between-breed differences in mRNA abundances or activities of enzymes involved in lipid metabolism. The mRNA abundance of lipoprotein lipase was maintained across ages, suggesting a storage of circulating FA rather than of FA synthesized de novo. Plasma LEP increased with foetal age, but only in the Charolais breed (+71%, P ⩽ 0.01), and was two- to threefold higher in Charolais than Blond d'Aquitaine foetuses. Regardless of the breed, bovine intermuscular AT contained predominantly unilocular adipocytes believed to be white adipocytes that were larger at 260 dpc than at 180 dpc. These data thus challenge current concepts of the largely brown nature of bovine foetal AT (based on histological and metabolic features of perirenal AT as previously reported a few days before or after birth).