Research was conducted to evaluate the sensitivity of Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle to a tall fescue ergopeptine alkaloid by assessing vital sign responses. Eight Polled Hereford and seven Red Brahman steers received bolus i.v. injections of ergotamine tartrate and saline vehicle in a simple cross-over design. Physiological traits measured 30 min and immediately before and 30, 60, and 90 min after treatment were respiration rate, rectal temperature, skin temperature at the tailhead and tail tip, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate. Blood samples were collected immediately before and 105 min after treatments to determine plasma prolactin and cortisol concentrations. Steers were fed a fescue-free diet in drylot. Ambient temperature and relative humidity averaged 31 degrees C and 55%, respectively, during data collection. No breed x treatment x time interactions were apparent for vital signs. The treatment x time interaction was significant (P < .05) for blood pressure and skin temperature. Ergotamine increased (P < .01) blood pressure and decreased (P < .01) skin temperature. The breed x treatment x time interactions were significant for prolactin (P < .1) and cortisol (P < .01). Ergotamine decreased plasma (P < .01) prolactin and increased (P < .01) cortisol concentrations in both breeds, despite some breed variation. Across all traits, Brahman and Hereford steers responded similarly to acute ergotamine exposure, indicating that the breeds are alike in acute sensitivity to a systemically administered ergopeptine alkaloid associated with fescue toxicosis.