The purpose of this study was to find out whether the concentration of bile acids in the rumen of healthy cows differs from that of cows with a reduced gastrointestinal passage. The investigations were performed on 277 heifers and cows of the Swiss Braunvieh, Simmental and Swiss Holstein breeds. Forty of these had traumatic reticuloperitonitis, 30 had right or left abomasal displacement, 14 had an ileus of the duodenum, 36 had an ileus of the jejunum and 54 had a caecal dilatation. The other 103 animals had disorders which did not affect the digestive system and were used as controls. The mean (+/- se) bile acid concentration in the rumen fluid of the control animals was 1.0 +/- 0.30 mumol/litre. The bile acid concentrations in the rumen fluid of the cows with a duodenal or jejunal ileus were significantly higher than those of the other groups, demonstrating that bile acids may reflux from the duodenum into the rumen of cows with an ileus in the small intestine.