The effects of 10 day clenbuterol administration on cardiac and skeletal muscle capillarities were studied, particularly in terms of the distribution of arteriolar and venular capillaries and their capillary density, in young (10-week-old) and middle-aged (37-week-old) male Wistar rats. Rats of the treated groups were fed a diet containing 2 mg kg−1 clenbuterol hydrochloride. In both young and middle aged rats, clenbuterol treatment increased the body wt and the weights of the heart and hindlimb muscles. The mean fibre cross-sectional area was significantly increased after the treatment in the left ventricle, soleus, plantaris and both deep and superficial portions of gastrocnemius (P< 0.01). In the left ventricle, the total capillary density and the density of venular capillaries were decreased after the treatment in both young (9 and 13%, respectively) and middle-aged rats (10 and 11%, respectively). A decrease in total capillary density was also observed in all skeletal muscles examined. In both young and middle-aged rats, the capillary-to-fibre (C:F) ratio and the proportion of each capillary did not change after the treatment in both the left ventricle and skeletal muscles. Clenbuterol significantly decreased the activity of succinate dehydrogenase in all skeletal muscles examined (P< 0.01). These results suggest that clenbuterol increased the diffusion distance for oxygen in the left ventricle and skeletal muscles. These changes may reduce the oxygen supply to tissues and increase muscle fatigability.