Male ferrets in breeding condition possess three times as many galanin-immunoreactive (IR) neurones as oestrous females in the sexually dimorphic dorsomedial preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus (dmPOA/AH). Using Fos-IR as a marker of activation, we investigated whether mating with intromission differentially activates this sexually dimorphic group of galanin-IR neurones in male and female ferrets. Male ferrets that intromitted had a significantly greater percentage of galanin-IR neurones in the dmPOA/AH that were colabelled with nuclear Fos-IR than oestrous females that received an intromission. Intromissive stimulation augmented Fos-IR in an equal percentage of galanin-IR neurones in both sexes in the medial amygdala (MA) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Peripheral anosmia induced by bilateral occlusion of males' nares did not reduce the mating-induced activation of galanin-IR neurones in the dmPOA/AH, and there was a significant correlation among individual males between intromission duration and the percentage of dmPOA/AH galanin-IR neurones colabelled with Fos-IR. Exposure of castrated, testosterone propionate-treated male ferrets to either soiled bedding or to volatile odours from oestrous females failed to induce nuclear Fos-IR in galanin-IR neurones located in the dmPOA/AH, BNST or MA, suggesting that the mating-induced activation of galanin-IR forebrain neurones in male ferrets depends more on genital-somatosensory than on olfactory inputs. The observed sex dimorphism in the mating-induced activation of galanin-IR neurones in the dmPOA/AH raises the possibility that these neurones perform a mating-dependent function that occurs only in males.