Abstract The effects of surgical stimuli on haemodynamic and electroencephalographic (EEG) variables were determined in 25 adult ewes undergoing an experimental orthopaedic procedure in isoflurane anaesthesia. Data were recorded after 15 min of constant end-tidal concentration of approximately 2.2% isoflurane (SS: steady state=baseline), during skin disinfection (DIS), incision (INC), drilling of the first hole through the tibia (DRI) and insertion of a threaded pin (PIN) for external fixation. Stimulation resulted in a significant increase in systolic and mean arterial pressure above SS at INC, DRI and PIN. Haemodynamic changes were accompanied by either significant increases or decreases in EEG median frequency (MF) and 80% spectral edge frequency (SEF80) above or below SS at all four stimulation time points suggesting ‘arousal’ or ‘paradoxical arousal’ reaction, respectively. We conclude, that either type of EEG activation pattern could be elicited dependent on stimulation intensity and level of anaesthetic depth.