To understand the abnormalities that underpin functional gut disorders we must first gain insight into the normal patterns of gut motility. While detailed information continually builds on the motor patterns (and mechanisms that control them) of the human esophagus and anorectum, our knowledge of normal and abnormal motility in the more inaccessible regions of the gut remains poor. This particularly true of the human colon. Investigation of in vivo colonic motor patterns is achieved through measures of transit (radiology, scintigraphy and, more recently, “smart pills”) or by direct real-time recording of colonic contractility (intraluminal manometry). This short review will provide an overview of findings from the past and present and attempt to piece together the complex nature of colonic motor patterns. In doing so it will build a profile of human colonic motility and determine the likely mechanisms that control this motility.