One hundred wild-type strains of the genus Lactobacillus were isolated from the small intestine of newly-slaughtered pigs up to 6 months of age. Cell surface hydrophobicity and capsule formation were studied on a number of strains. Strains showing high surface hydrophobicity as measured by the salt-aggregation test and hydrophobic interaction chromatography on Octyl Sepharose were commonly found to adhere in high numbers to isolated pig intestinal epithelial cells. Heat and protease treatment of bacteria of high surface hydrophobicity, including autoaggregating strains in phosphate-buffered saline, showed a drastic decline in this surface property. Three hydrophilic strains (LBp 1044, 1068 and 1073) also showed binding to intestinal cells but at a lower level (approx. 5 bacteria/cell) as compared with the best binding hydrophobic strain (LBp 1063, approx. 11 bacteria/cell). These findings suggest that different or multiple adhesion mechanisms may be involved in the colonization of the small intestinal mucosa of pigs. Cultures of selected strains grown in liquid media rich in carbohydrates did not affect their hydrophobic cell surface character. Therefore it seems less likely that carbohydrate capsule polymers are the major determinants of intestinal colonization of lactobacilli in pigs.