There are important differences in terms of metabolic activity, energy utilization and capacity of protein and fat deposition when Iberian and modern pigs are compared. Primary culture of hepatocytes was used to evaluate hepatic function and sensitivity to hormones between breeds without the interference of circulating blood factors. Hepatocytes were isolated from pure Iberian (n=10) and Landrace (n=8) pigs of similar BW (24.5±12.1 and 32.9±6.1 kg BW, respectively), by collagenase perfusion. Monolayers were established in medium containing fetal bovine serum for 1 day and switched to serum-free medium for the remainder of the culture period. Hepatocytes were maintained in William’s E supplemented with β-mercaptoethanol (0.1 mM), glutamine (2 mM), antibiotics (gentamicin, penicillin, streptomycin and amphotericin B), dimethyl sulfoxide (1 µg/ml), dexamethasone (10−8 M), insulin (0.173 and 17.3 nM) and glucagon (0.287, 2.87 and 28.7 nM) for 24 to 48 h. Gluconeogenesis (GNG), glycogen degradation, triglycerides (TG) content and esterification, β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) synthesis, IGF-1 synthesis, albumin and urea synthesis were determined. Iberian pigs had greater capacity of GNG than Landrace (24%, P<0.05), although no difference in glycogen degradation was found (P>0.10). TG content and esterification tended to be lower in hepatocytes from Iberian compared with Landrace pigs (12% and 31%, respectively; 0.10<P<0.05). Furthermore, addition of free fatty acids (CLA or linoleic acid, 0.2 mM) increased TG content (64%, P<0.001) although no difference between fatty acids was found. When free fatty acids were compared, a trend toward increased esterification (41%, P=0.078) was found for CLA. Although glucagon stimulated and insulin inhibited BHB synthesis, no difference between breeds was found (P>0.10). IGF-1 synthesis was diminished in hepatocytes from Iberian compared with Landrace pigs (16%, P<0.05). On the contrary, rate of albumin synthesis was greater in Iberian compared with Landrace pigs (58%, P<0.05). Finally, the capacity of urea synthesis was lower in hepatocytes of Iberian compared with Landrace pigs (37%, P<0.05). When ammonia was added to the media, urea concentration increased (648%, 1108% and 2791% when 0 mM was compared with 2.5, 5 and 10 mM, respectively). Urea synthesis increased on increasing ammonia content (55% and 325% when 0 mM was compared with 5 and 10 mM, respectively; P<0.0001). In conclusion, the genetic background accounts for important differences in protein and energy metabolism pathways found in primary culture of hepatocytes from lean and obese pigs.