Lavage procedures were used to obtain samples of respiratory secretions from the nasal cavity, trachea, bronchi and bronchoalveolar level of apparently normal conscious horses, and the cellular composition of the lavage fluids was assessed. There was a progressive increase in total cell count of the secretions obtained from the upper to the lower respiratory tracts. Nasal lavage fluid was composed chiefly of epithelial cells, whereas tracheal, bronchial and bronchoalveolar fluids contained higher proportions of macrophages, lymphocytes and neutrophils. Eosinophils and mast cells were identified in small numbers. The results of the differential cell counts were compared with previous published reports, which revealed some major differences between studies. It is suggested that these differences may relate to variations in the collection technique, the cytological interpretation of cell types, the presence of subclinical airway disease, and the degree of exposure to airborne environmental contaminants.