This paper addresses the issue of how physiological properties of Leishmania determine the pattern of development of disseminated leishmaniasis in the mammalian host. It presents direct experimental evidence from in vivo studies that species of Leishmania differ in their capacity to multiply in cutaneous and visceral sites which results in differences in the pattern and rate of development of leishmaniasis. It was found that Leishmania mexicana amazonensis begins to multiply in the cutaneous site of inoculation within 7 days. Parasites, detected in the liver and spleen at 4 weeks, increased 100-fold during the next 4 months. However, the slow multiplication of L. mexicana amazonensis in the liver and spleen was more apparent than real. Parasites implanted in those organs of athymic nude mice by an intravenous injection were rapidly eliminated with a half-time of 16 hr. Thus, the parasites found in small numbers in the liver during the development of disseminated cutaneous disease in mice are most likely those which have been recently removed from the blood. Those few parasites that are not removed from the blood can establish metastatic foci in distant cutaneous sites, and replicate progressively once there.