Three experiments on the effects of lesions of the visual system on contrast-detection in hooded rats are described, in which the ability of rats to detect stationary high-contrast square-wave gratings of various fundamental frequencies presented in the central visual field was measured before and after operation. The results suggested the following conclusions: (i) The pathways from retina to striate cortex via dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) conveys information about high spatial frequencies sufficient for normal detection of these gratings, that is up to about 1 cycles/deg. It may be the only pathway to carry this information, and may thus play a unique role in the analysis of fine detail. The high-frequency information is probably relayed from striate cortex to extrastriate cortex, rather than to subcortical sites. (ii) The superior colliculus receives information from the retina up to at least 0.7 cycles/deg, which it then relays to extrastriate visual cortex, probably via the lateral posterior nucleus of the thalamus. (iii) Neither the projections from superior colliculus to other, non-thalamic sites nor the remaining pathways from the retina (e.g. to ventral LGN) appear to carry contrast information higher than 0.3 cycles/deg. These sets of projections therefore do not appear to be used for precise analysis of stationary scenes. These findings suggest that there are considerable similarities between the visual systems of rats and other mammals with respect to the routing of information about stationary spatial contrast, and may help to explain the results of some experiments that have used tasks besides contrast-detection to assess the visual capacities of rats after lesions.