Immediately after electrical stimulation, the paired m. longissimus thoracis et lumborum (LT) of 40 sheep were boned out and wrapped tightly with a polyethylene cling film. One of the paired LT's was chilled in 15°C air to reach a rigor mortis (rigor) temperature of 18°C and the other side was placed in a water bath at 35°C and achieved rigor at this temperature. Wrapping reduced rigor shortening and mimicked meat left on the carcass. After rigor, the meat was aged at 15°C for 0, 8, 26 and 72 h and then frozen. The frozen meat was cooked to 75°C in an 85°C water bath and shear force values obtained from a 1×1 cm cross-section. The shear force values of meat for 18 and 35°C rigor were similar at zero ageing, but as ageing progressed, the 18 rigor meat aged faster and became more tender than meat that went into rigor at 35°C (P < 0.001). The mean sarcomere length values of meat samples for 18 and 35°C rigor at each ageing time were significantly different (P < 0.001), the samples at 35°C being shorter. When the short sarcomere length values and corresponding shear force values were removed for further data analysis, the shear force values for the 35°C rigor were still significantly greater. Thus the toughness of 35°C meat was not a consequence of muscle shortening and appears to be due to both a faster rate of tenderisation and the meat tenderising to a greater extent at the lower temperature. The cook loss at 35°C rigor (30.5%) was greater than that at 18°C rigor (28.4%) (P < 0.01) and the colour Hunter L values were higher at 35°C (P < 0.01) compared with 18°C, but there were no significant differences in a or b values.