Carotid arteries from control and deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) hypertensive swine were examined for alterations in structure and in contractile properties. Vessels were excised 7 weeks after subcutaneous implantation of the steroid and subsequent elevation in mean arterial pressure from 102 to 133 mm Hg. The carotid media was 1.8 times thicker in arteries from hypertensive animals than in arteries from control animals. This enlargement was associated with an increase in muscle mass, as the fraction of the media composed of smooth muscle cells remained unchanged. Maximal active stress induced by several agonists normalized for cell cross-sectional area was unaltered. No change was observed in sensitivity or maximal response to norepinephrine, histamine, or KCl depolarization. Isotonic shortening rates were also comparable, as was the time course of shortening velocity to a constant afterload during tonic contractions. It is concluded that an enlargement of the carotid media develops in this model of hypertension. However, this response is not associated with detectable alterations in contractile system function.