The neuroendocrine response of female sheep to a novel male involves neural activation in the hypothalamus. However, if males are removed, the gonadotrophic signal declines, so the neural activity is likely to change. We examined Fos-immunoreactive (IR) cells in hypothalamic tissues from seasonally anovulatory female sheep exposed to males for 2 or 6 h, or for 2 h followed by 4 h isolation from males. Control females were killed in the absence of male exposure. Male introduction increased LH secretion in all females; male removal was associated with a reduction only in mean and basal LH concentrations. Females exposed to males for 2 h had more Fos-IR cells in the arcuate nucleus (ARC), ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) and organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis (OVLT) than control females. Fos-IR cells in the preoptic area (POA) were only greater than in control females after 6 h exposure to a male. Removal of males decreased the number of Fos-IR cells in the ARC, VMH and OVLT, but not in the POA. Thus, hypothalamic neural activation and LH secretion in female sheep are stimulated by males and decline after male removal. However, activation in the POA persists after removal and may explain the incomplete decline in the LH response.