Even though osteodistraction has been well established in the extremities, the parameters used in craniofacial distraction have been essentially borrowed from orthopaedic experience. Latency is widely practised but its relevance has not been fully investigated. The purpose of this study was to establish the role of latency in mandibular distraction osteogenesis. Twenty-two growing Wethers sheep were allocated to four experimental groups. Six animals were allocated to each of Groups A, B and C and underwent bilateral mandibular corticotomies and attachment of an external lengthening device. Latent periods of 0, 4 and 7 days respectively were observed prior to beginning distraction. The distraction protocol consisted of a rate of 0.5 mm twice daily for 20 days, followed by a consolidation phase of 20 days after which the sheep were killed. Histology, bone densitometry and 3-point mechanical testing were performed on the harvested mandibles. Group D formed the control group (n = 4). Histologically, the distracted bone exhibited bone formation primarily via intramembranous ossification with scattered islands of cartilage. The regenerated bone had mechanical properties significantly weaker than the undistracted control group (P < 0.05), but between the experimental groups no statistically significant differences were demonstrable either in mechanical strength or DEXA density. These data indicate that a change in latency does not alter the properties of the regenerated bone in mandibular distraction osteogenesis and indeed no latent interval may be necessary at all in craniofacial distraction. This has implications for the duration of device fixation in distraction procedures.