The shape of the foramen magnum and the variation in the ossification pattern of the supra-occipital bone were studied in 48 skulls, including 12 from neonatal and 33 from immature and mature beagles of known age. The shape varied markedly, and a dorsal notch, dorsomedial to the nuchal tubercles and present in over half of the beagles, developed as a result of incomplete ossification of the ventromedial part of the supra-occipital bone. In a pomeranian and a chihuahua a membrane of dure mater and connective tissue, which covered the prominent dorsal notch, prevented prolapse of the brain. The spinal cord passed through a smaller oval opening in the ventral half of the foramen magnum. As there was no apparent impairment of function or anomalies associated with the dorsal notch and since a prominent dorsal notch was common in small breeds with brachycephalic skulls, it was concluded that the dorsal notch is a variation in the normal morphological pattern.