The evolution of hyper-prolific pig breeds has led to a higher within-litter variation in birth weight and in BW gain during the nursery phase. Based on an algorithm developed in previous research, two populations from a pool of 368 clinically healthy piglets at 6 weeks of age were selected: a low (LP) and a high (HP) performing population and their development was monitored until the end of the nursery phase (10 weeks of age). To understand the cause of the variation in growth between these populations we characterized the LP and HP piglets in terms of body morphology, behaviour, voluntary feed intake, BW gain, and apparent total tract and ileal nutrient digestibility. Piglets were housed individually and were fed a highly digestible diet. At selection, 6 weeks of age, the BW of LP and HP piglets were 6.8±0.1 and 12.2±0.1 kg, respectively. Compared with the LP piglets the HP piglets grew faster (203 g/day), ate more (275 g/day) from 6 to 10 weeks of age and were heavier at 10 weeks (30.0 v. 18.8 kg, all P0.10). We concluded that the low performance of the LP piglets was due to their inability to engage compensatory gain or compensatory feed intake as efficiency of nutrient utilization and feed intake per kg BW0.75 was unaffected. LP piglets tend to be more fearful towards novel objects. The morphological comparisons, increased body length and head circumference relative to BW imply that LP piglets have an increased priority for skeletal growth.