The beagle dog with hereditary primary open-angle glaucoma, unlike other animal models of human glaucoma, possesses a slowly progressive, sustained elevation of intraocular pressure. The effects of this insidious elevation in intraocular pressure on the axons of the optic nerves of three beagles at early stages of glaucoma and two beagles with advanced signs of glaucoma were compared to the optic nerves of four age-matched normal dogs. Plastic embedded optic nerve cross-sections (1 micron) 1 mm posterior to the lamina cribrosa were osmicated and stained with Toluidine Blue. Axons from 0.2 to > 2.0 microns in diameter were counted and measured in 16 cross-sectional regions of equal size within the whole optic nerve using a computerized image analysis system. The mean optic nerve axon diameters in the normal, early glaucomatous, and advanced glaucomatous dogs were 1.53, 1.25 and 1.13 microns respectively. The average total optic nerve axon count in the normal dogs was 148,303. Approximately 16% of the total axonal fibers were counted in each nerve. The counts of optic nerve axons 2.0 microns or greater in diameter were reduced by up to 60% in the central regions of the optic nerves of affected beagles. The large diameter axons of the peripheral optic nerve of the beagle dogs with glaucoma were more resistant to the elevated intraocular pressure. The counts of axons > 0.6 to 0.8 micron in diameter were significantly increased in glaucomatous beagles.