The aim of this study was to determine the osmotic tolerance limits of stallion sperm as well as the osmotic behavior of different sperm subpopulations, including viable and non-viable cells as well as viable cells of different average sizes. A flow cytometric approach was used for simultaneous assessment of cell volume and permeability of the plasma membrane for the fluorescent dye propidium iodide while exposing the cells to media with different solute concentrations. Equine spermatozoa have limited osmotic tolerance limits: exposure to hypotonic conditions below approximately 240 mOsm kg(-1) already results in an increase in plasma membrane damaged cells, increasing up to 50% at an osmolality of 136 mOsm kg(-1). Plasma membrane damaged stallion sperm do not show an osmotic response after 10 min incubation in hypotonic conditions, and their volume is smaller as compared to viable cells. It is shown that inclusion or exclusion of different subpopulations greatly affects Boyle van 't Hoff behavior and therewith determination of the osmotic inactive volume. Osmotic inactive volumes were determined to be 76% and 46% of the isotonic volume for the whole sperm population and the plasma membrane intact viable cells, respectively. In addition, viable subpopulations with different average cell volumes also show different osmotic behavior. The main subpopulation of viable cells increased up to 1.6 times its isotonic volume upon exposure to 150 mOsm kg(-1), and exhibited an osmotic inactive volume of 79%.