Dormancy in rice (Oryza sativa L.) seed is imposed by certain physical and chemical factors associated with its covering structures, i.e.hull and pericarp. The nature of these germination blocks, their mode ofaction, and processes regulating the release of dormancy are not fully understood. Of nine rice cultivars studied, Ching-shi 15, Stejaree 45, PTB10, and Mahsuri are weakly dormant, and Bansphul, Benaful, Kataktara, Dular, and N22 are dormant. Release of seed dormancy in rice by various treatments, oxidative processes and enzymic changes associated with dormancy, and parallelism between natural and artificially imposed dormancy patterns were examined. The influence of the hull in imposing dormancy was stronger and more prolonged than that of the pericarp. Application of GA3 was effective in inducing germination only in weakly dormant cultivars. Dormancy was completely released in all cultivars by subjecting the seeds to moist heat treatment, by removing the hull and pericarp, and by applying GA3 after dehulling. Dormant cultivars had higher O2 uptake rate and peroxidase activity and lower amylase and dehydrogenase activities than the weakly dormant ones. Hull removal substantially decreased peroxidase activity but enhanced amylase and dehydrogenase activities. Nonanoic acid (C90), a short-chain saturated fatty acid (SCSFA), when exogenously applied to non-dormant seeds imposed dormancy. Dry heat treatment or presoaking in 0.01 m KNO3 or 0.1 m H2O2 was very effective in releasing SCSFA-imposed dormancy. Amylase activity was greatly reduced by treatments with nonanoic acid (C90) or ABA. Considering earlier reports and results of the present study, it is proposed that seed dormancy in rice is regulated both by the presence of SCSFAs and ABA in the hull and the pericarp. The relative significance of these substances in cultivars of tropical and temperate origins and its implications in terms of ecogeographic adaptability are discussed.