Stress neuroendocrine systems (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system) were studied in 100 female pigs from each of the five main genetic lines used in Europe for pork production: Piétrain, Large White, Landrace, Duroc and Meishan. Levels of cortisol and catecholamines were measured in urine collected at the farm, after transportation to the slaughterhouse and the next morning before slaughter. With the exception of the Piétrain line that showed intermediate levels of cortisol despite its extreme leanness, a significant positive relationship was found between basal cortisol levels and fatness, both across and within (except in Piétrain and Duroc) lines. Basal cortisol levels were 2.46-fold higher in Meishan (20.46 ng/mg creatinine) than in Large White pigs (8.30 ng/mg creatinine), the two extreme breeds. Post-transportation levels were highest but proportional to basal levels, suggesting that the adrenal reactivity to adrenocorticotropic hormone is a major source of variability between lines. Levels of catecholamines were less variable between lines but correlated also with fatness, partlyviapartial correlations with cortisol levels. In serum collected at exsanguination, creatine kinase activity was correlated with muscularity across the five breeds. However, this was due to a much larger activity than expected in Piétrain pigs, although all animals were negative for the allele of the ryanodine receptor gene responsible for stress sensitivity. Serum glucose levels were inversely related to fatness. These data show that the differences between breeds or lines can be utilised by cross-breeding and that this can lead to changes in stress hormones and in turn to some degree of changes in carcass traits.