Cobalt nanowires with controlled diameters have been synthesized using electrochemical deposition in etched ion-track polycarbonate membranes. Structural characterization of these nanowires with diameter 70, 90, 120 nm and length 30 μm was performed by scanning electron microscopy, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction techniques. The as-prepared wires show uniform diameter along the whole length and X-ray diffraction analysis reveals that  texture of these wires become more pronounced as diameter is reduced. Magnetic characterization of the nanowires shows a clear difference of squareness and coercivity between parallel and perpendicular orientations of the wires with respect to the applied field direction. In case of parallel applied field, the coercivity has been found to be decreasing with increasing diameter of the wires while in perpendicular case; the coercivity observes lower values for larger diameter. The results are explained by taking into account the magnetocrystalline and shape anisotropies with respect to the applied field and domain transformation mechanism when single domain limit is surpassed. © The Author(s) 2010.