It was shown in a recent study  that barren housed pigs (small pens, no substrate) have a blunted circadian rhythm of salivary cortisol as compared to enriched housed pigs (large pens with daily fresh bedding). In the light period, enriched housed pigs showed significantly higher concentrations of cortisol in saliva than barren housed pigs, whereas in the dark period, cortisol concentrations were low in both enriched and barren housed pigs. In the present study, the immunological consequences of the difference in baseline salivary cortisol concentration in the light period were evaluated. It appeared that leukocyte and lymphocyte distributions, and in vitro lymphocyte proliferation following ConcanavalineA (ConA) stimulation in the assay using purified lymphocytes were not affected. However, barren and enriched housed pigs did show a different proliferation response to ConA in the whole blood assay. At day 2 of culture, proliferation was higher in barren housed pigs than in enriched housed pigs, whereas at day 4 of culture, proliferation was higher in enriched housed pigs than in barren housed pigs. Lymphocyte proliferation at day 2 of culture in the whole blood assay correlated negatively with plasma cortisol levels, which might thus explain the higher proliferation in barren housed pigs at day 2 of culture. The in vivo humoral and cellular (delayed type hypersensitivity, DTH) immune response to KLH was not affected by housing conditions. We conclude that, although baseline salivary cortisol concentrations differ between enriched and barren housed pigs, immune function appears to be relatively unaffected. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.