This paper summarizes the current views on coping styles as a useful concept in understanding individual adaptive capacity and vulnerability to stress-related disease. Studies in feral populations indicate the existence of a proactive and a reactive coping style. These coping styles seem to play a role in the population ecology of the species. Despite domestication, genetic selection and inbreeding, the same coping styles can, to some extent, also be observed in laboratory and farm animals. Coping styles are characterized by consistent behavioral and neuroendocrine characteristics, some of which seem to be causally linked to each other. Evidence is accumulating that the two coping styles might explain a differential vulnerability to stress mediated disease due to the differential adaptive value of the two coping styles and the accompanying neuroendocrine differentiation.