Abstract A physical sign was assessed and operation findings were noted in boys with testes which tended to deviate lateral to the external ring who were seen over a five-year period. Tensing the abdominal muscles by straight-leg raising not only facilitated palpation of such testes but also helped to demonstrate lateral deviation. The view that testes found lateral to the external ring and which could be pushed some way into the scrotum were merely retractile was questioned. Such testes were deviated by inguinal tethering. The spermatic cord was short enough in over half the tethered testes to require retroperitoneal dissection to achieve the fully descended position, not a significantly different proportion compared with the obstructed group.