The concentrations of dopamine, noradrenaline and their respective primary neuronal metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenyleneglycol (DHPG) were measured in the hypophysial portal and peripheral plasma of sheep and rats by combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Hypophysial portal and jugular blood samples were taken at 5- to 10-min intervals for 3-7 h from six conscious ovariectomized ewes. Blood was also collected for 30 min under urethane anaesthesia from the cut pituitary stalk from 16 pro-oestrous female and five intact male rats. In ovariectomized ewes, noradrenaline concentrations were higher in hypophysial portal plasma than in peripheral plasma (6.6 ± 0.8 vs 2.2 ± 0.4 nmol/l). In contrast, dopamine was undetectable (< 1 nmol/l) in the portal and peripheral plasma of all ewes. Plasma levels of DOPAC and DHPG in portal and jugular samples were similar. In all pro-oestrous female rats, plasma concentrations of dopamine were higher in portal blood than in jugular blood (8.0 ± 1.4 vs 4.8 ± 0.6 nmol/l). Detectable concentrations of dopamine were measured in the portal plasma of two out of five male rats. Noradrenaline concentrations were higher in portal plasma than in peripheral plasma of both female (8.3 ± 1.7 vs 3.7 ± 0.6 nmol/l) and male (14.8 ± 2.7 vs 6.1 ± 1.2 nmol/l) rats. These data show that noradrenaline, but not dopamine, is secreted into the long portal vessels in sheep. The results suggest that there are species differences in the secretion of hypothalamic dopamine into hypophysial portal blood.