Acute radiation sickness (ARS) is expected to occur in astronauts during large solar particle events (SPEs). One parameter associated with ARS is the hematopoietic syndrome, which can result from decreased numbers of circulating blood cells in those exposed to radiation. The peripheral blood cells are critical for an adequate immune response, and low blood cell counts can result in an increased susceptibility to infection. In this study, Yucatan minipigs were exposed to proton radiation within a range of skin dose levels expected for an SPE (estimated from previous SPEs). The proton-radiation exposure resulted in significant decreases in total white blood cell count (WBC) within 1 day of exposure, 60% below baseline control value or preirradiation values. At the lowest level of the blood cell counts, lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes and eosinophils were decreased up to 89.5%, 60.4%, 73.2% and 75.5%, respectively, from the preirradiation values. Monocytes and lymphocytes were decreased by an average of 70% (compared to preirradiation values) as early as 4 h after radiation exposure. Skin doses greater than 5 Gy resulted in decreased blood cell counts up to 90 days after exposure. The results reported here are similar to studies of ARS using the nonhuman primate model, supporting the use of the Yucatan minipig as an alternative. In addition, the high prevalence of hematologic abnormalities resulting from exposure to acute, whole-body SPE-like proton radiation warrants the development of appropriate countermeasures to prevent or treat ARS occurring in astronauts during space travel.