Summary. The bactericidal and phagocytic activities of blood neutrophils suspended in uterine washings and the mobilization of neutrophils into the uterine lumen were studied in ovariectomized mares receiving oestradiol benzoate (N = 4), progesterone (N = 4) or oily vehicle (N = 4). Uterine lavage was performed sequentially up to 144 h after induction of endometritis by intrauterine infusion of glycogen (1%). There was no significant difference between the 3 groups in speed of mobilization of neutrophils into the uterus in the first 6 h after infusion but there were significantly more uterine luminal neutrophils in progesterone-treated than in oestradiol-treated mares by 24 h after infusion (P < 0·01). Uterine washings collected from progesterone-treated mares at 0, 24 and 144 h were significantly worse at promoting bactericidal activity by neutrophils than washings from oestradiol-treated and control mares (P < 0·001). In oestrogen-treated and control mares bactericidal activity had increased by 144 h but in progesterone-treated mares bactericidal activity remained low. Neither treatment nor time affected the ability of washings to opsonize yeast blastospores. Elevated concentrations of progesterone in plasma were therefore associated with decreased bactericidal activity of neutrophils suspended in uterine washings but the generation of C3b in washings did not appear to be affected by hormone treatment.