Results from our previous research indicate that long-term tether-housed pigs with high and low levels of stereotypies show differences in the density of endogenous opioid receptors in the hippocampus and hypothalamus. It was not clear whether differences in opioid receptor density were induced by the chronic stress of tether housing or stereotypy performance, or were already present before the animals were tethered. The latter possibility was tested in the present experiment. We used a group of 18 nonstereotyping pigs that had no experience with tether housing and investigated whether the animals differed in the density of endogenous opioid receptors in the brain and, if so, whether these differences were related to the animals' reactions to acute challenges. The pigs were subjected to two tests: an open field test and a tethering test. Behavioral reactions as well as heart rate responses were measured. Opioid receptor densities were determined postmortem in the hippocampus and hypothalamus using a membrane binding assay with [3H]naloxone as a ligand. Animals differed widely in their responses to the two tests. In support of our hypothesis, we found a relationship between behavioral and heart rate responses and densities of naloxone binding sites in the hippocampus and hypothalamus. The data suggest that endogenous opioid systems in the brain contribute to differences in stress responding between individual pigs.