Stress-dependent activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) can compromise reproductive function in animals and humans. In addition, it has been shown that estrogens are also capable of influencing the activity of the adrenal cortex. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of estradiol (E2) on adrenocortical secretion of cortisol and progesterone as well as on pituitary LH-release in cows during stress. Five ovariectomized Brown Swiss cows were exposed to acute restraint stress (2-h immobilization in a trimming chute), either with or without E2 treatment. Blood samples were taken every 15 min during a 5-h period for determination of cortisol progesterone and LH. Our results demonstrate that during the 2-h stress period mean cortisol concentrations significantly (P < 0.05) increased in all cows independent of E2 treatment. Mean progesterone concentrations also increased during stress, but the effect was only significant in E2-untreated cows. In contrast to cortisol and progesterone, mean LH values decreased in all animals during stress, but the decline was not significant. However, significantly lower mean LH values were seen at the end of the stress period comparing to values before stress. In cows without stress, E2 treatment had no significant effect on mean values of all three hormones analyzed. From our results it can be concluded that in ovariectomized cows (a) acute stress increases cortisol and progesterone secretion but decreases LH release and (b) the stress induced adrenocortical and pituitary responses were clearly attenuated under the influence of estradiol.