The application of the epicutaneous antigen oxazolone results in persistent induration and erythema; however, the relative changes in lymph and blood flow in the inflammatory skin are largely unknown. To define the contribution of lymph and blood flow to the clinical appearance of cutaneous inflammation, we studied the sheep ear after the application of oxazolone. As a model for the study of these changes, the sheep ear had several experimental advantages: 1) a simplified superficial vascular network, 2) defined lymphatic drainage, and 3) an avascular and alymphatic cartilaginous barrier. Lymph flow was continuously monitored by cannulation of the prescapular efferent lymph duct. Blood flow, as reflected by cutaneous erythema, was noninvasively measured by use of a visible-spectrum spectrophotometer. The application of the epicutaneous oxazolone resulted in increased ear thickness for >7 days. The lymph flow from the oxazolone-stimulated ear peaked between 24 and 48 h after oxazolone stimulation. Spectrophotometric evaluation indicated that the cutaneous erythema peaked 72-96 h after application of oxazolone. Corrosion casting and scanning electron microscopy of the microcirculation at 96 h after antigen stimulation demonstrated significant dilatation of the superficial vascular network. These results suggest a biphasic response to oxazolone stimulation: 1) an early increase in vascular permeability associated with increased lymph flow and 2) a subsequent increase in relative blood flow associated with a dilated inflammatory microcirculation.