Abstract Visceral pain is the most common form of pain produced by disease and is thus of interest in the study of gastrointestinal (GI) complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome, in which sensory signals perceived as GI pain travel in extrinsic afferent neurones with cell bodies in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). The DRG from which the primary spinal afferent innervation of the mouse descending colon arises are not well defined. This study has combined retrograde labelling and immunohistochemistry to identify and characterize these neurones. Small to medium-sized retrogradely labelled cell bodies were found in the DRG at levels T8-L1 and L6-S1. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)- and P2X3-like immunoreactivity (LI) was seen in 81 and 32%, respectively, of retrogradely labelled cells, and 20% bound the Griffonia simplicifolia-derived isolectin IB4. CGRP-LI and IB4 were co-localized in 22% of retrogradely labelled cells, whilst P2X3-LI and IB4 were co-localized in 7% (vs 34% seen in the whole DRG population). Eighty-two per cent of retrogradely labelled cells exhibited vanilloid receptor 1-like immunoreactivity (VR1-LI). These data suggest that mouse colonic spinal primary afferent neurones are mostly peptidergic CGRP-containing, VR1-LI, C fibre afferents. In contrast to the general DRG population, a subset of neurones exist that are P2X3 receptor-LI but do not bind IB4.