Over 30 years ago, Castro [(1972) Brain Res., 37, 173–185] proposed that motor cortex (MtCx) ablation produced deficits in digital usage that contributed to the rat’s impairments in a reach-to-eat task, but the impairment was not directly documented. The present study examined digit use in control rats and rats with MtCx lesions using high-speed (1000 f/s) video recording. Temporal and spatial characteristics of individual digits were evaluated by digitizing the tip of the digits and digital joints using the motion measurement system Peak Motus. Control rats displayed differential digital use during grasping actions and MtCx damage reduced individual digit movement, both as the paw was pre-shaped for grasping and in the grasping action itself. The findings show that although grasping is retained following MtCx damage, MtCx is essential for dexterous movement. The results are discussed in relation to the idea that rodent MtCx is not only necessary for rotatory movements of the limb, but also for digital control and in relation to the similarities of rodent digit use to that described for primates.