Peak volumetric bone mineral density (BMD) is determined by the growth in bone size relative to the mineral accrued within its periosteal envelope. Thus, reduced peak volumetric BMD may be the result of reduced mineral accrual relative to growth in bone size. Because sex steroids and growth hormone (GH) influence bone size and mass we asked: What are the effects of gonadectomy (Gx) on bone size, bone mineral content (BMC), areal and volumetric BMD in growing male and female rats? Does GH deficiency (GH-) reduce the amount of bone in the (smaller) bone, i.e., reduce volumetric BMD? Does GH- alter the effect of Gx on bone size and mineral accrual? Gx or sham surgery was performed at 6 weeks in GH- and GH replete (GH+) Fisher 344 male and female rats. Changes in bone size, volume, BMC, areal and volumetric BMD, measured using dual X-ray absorptiometry (DPX-L), were expressed as percentage of controls at 8 months (mean +/- SEM). All results shown were significant (p < 0.05 level) unless otherwise stated. In GH+ and GH- males, respectively, Gx was associated with: lower femur volume (24%, 25%), BMC (43%, 45%), areal BMD (21%, 14%), and volumetric BMD (30%, 28%); lower spine (L1-L3) volume (26%, 28%), BMC (26%, 30%), and areal BMD (28%, 12%), but not volumetric BMD. Following Gx, GH+ females had increased femur volume (11%), no effect on BMC, decreased areal BMD (6%) and decreased volumetric BMD (17%); GH- females had no change in femur volume, but decreased femur BMC (24%), areal BMD (10%), and volumetric BMD (25%). In GH+ and GH- females, respectively, Gx was associated with a decrease in spine (L1-L3) BMC (12%, 15%), areal BMD (16%, 15%), and volumetric BMD (10%, 16%) with no change in volume. Deficits in non-Gx GH- relative to non-Gx GH+ (males, females, respectively) were: femur BMC (49%, 37%), areal BMD (23%, 8%), volume (19%, 19%) and volumetric BMD (37%, 22%); spine (L1-L3) BMC (46%, 42%), areal BMD (37%, 43%), volume (10%, 15%), and volumetric BMD (40%, 33%). Testosterone and GH are growth promoting in growing male rats, producing independent effects on bone size and mass; deficiency produced smaller appendicular bones with reduced volumetric BMD because deficits in mass were greater than deficits in size. At the spine, the reduction in size and accrual were proportional, resulting in a smaller bone with normal volumetric BMD. In growing female rats, estrogen was growth limiting at appendicular sites; deficiency resulted in a GH-dependent increase in appendicular size, relatively reduced accrual, and so, reduced volumetric BMD in a bigger bone. At the spine, accrual was reduced while growth in size was normal, thus volumetric BMD was reduced in the normal sized bone. Understanding the pathogenesis of low volumetric BMD requires the study of the differing relative growth in size and mass of the axial and appendicular skeleton in the male and female and the regulators of the growth of these traits.