Using rectal palpation and laparoscopy, the relationship of ovarian contents to plasma progesterone concentration during the oestrous cycle, early pregnancy and post partum periods in the swamp buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) was studied. During the oestrous cycle, four stages in the lifespan of the corpus luteum were seen laparoscopically. The mean (+/- sd) concentrations of progesterone in plasma in cows with and without a corpus luteum on their ovaries were 1.49 +/- 0.78 ng/ml (n = 31) and 0.14 +/- 0.09 ng/ml (n = 14), respectively. Plasma progesterone levels reflected age-dependent changes occurring in the cyclic corpus luteum. The accuracy of diagnosing ovarian contents was 82 and 91 per cent for rectal palpation and plasma progesterone levels respectively. Approximately 29 per cent follicles (larger than 10 mm) were incorrectly diagnosed as corpora lutea by rectal palpation.