In order to study the effect of grazing pastures with a different botanical composition on rumen and intramuscular fatty acid metabolism, 21 male lambs were assigned to three botanically different pastures: botanically diverse (BD) (consisting for 65% of a variety of grass species); Leguminosa rich (L) (consisting for 61% of Leguminosae) and intensive English ryegrass (IR) (with 69% Lolium perenne). Pastures were sampled weekly for 12 weeks for analysis of their fatty acid content and composition and on nine occasions to determine the botanical composition. Ruminal and abomasal contents were sampled at slaughter and muscle and subcutaneous fat 24 h after slaughter. All samples were prepared and analysed for fatty acid composition. The L pasture showed a higher fatty acid content (29.8 mg/g dry matter (DM) v. 18.5 and 25.5 mg/g DM, for BD and IR pastures, respectively), but the sum of the proportions of the major polyunsaturated fatty acids, C18:2 n-6 and C18:3 n-3, were similar for the three pastures (69.9, 69.4 and 71.1% of fatty acids methyl esters (FAME) for BD, L and IR pastures, respectively). The BD pasture was richer in C18:2 n-6 (18.2% of FAME), while IR pasture had a higher C18:3 n-3 content (57.2% of FAME). Rumen data showed that animals grazing the BD pasture presented higher proportions of biohydrogenation intermediates, mainly C18:1 t11, C18:2 t11c15 and CLA c9t11, suggesting an inhibition of biohydrogenation. These changes were associated with shifts in the rumen microbial population as indicated by differences in the rumen pattern of volatile fatty acids, microbial odd- and branched-chain fatty acids. In L pasture animals, the content of C18:2 n-6 and C18:3 n-3 in the abomasum and subcutaneous fat was higher. Finally, higher proportions of C20:4 n-6, C20:5 n-3 and C22:5 n-3 and higher indices for elongation and desaturation activity in the intramuscular fat of BD grazing animals suggest some stimulation of elongation and desaturation of long-chain fatty acids, although this also might have been provoked partially by reduced fat deposition (due to a lower growth rate of the animals).