In a previous study, our laboratory showed that young dogs born at sea level (SL) and raised from 2.5 mo of age to beyond somatic maturity at a high altitude (HA) of 3,100 m show enhanced resting lung function (Johnson RL Jr, Cassidy SS, Grover RF, Schutte JE, and Epstein RH. J Appl Physiol 59: 1773 - 1782, 1985). To examine whether HA-induced adaptation improves pulmonary gas exchange during exercise and whether adaptation is reversible when animals return to SL before somatic maturity, we raised 2.5-mo-old foxhounds at HA (3,800 m) for 5 mo (to age 7.5 mo) before returning them to SL. Lung function was measured under anesthesia 1 mo and 2 yr after return to SL and during exercise similar to 1 yr after return. In animals exposed to HA relative to simultaneous litter-matched SL controls, resting circulating blood and erythrocyte volumes, lung volumes, septal volume estimated by a rebreathing technique, and lung tissue volume estimated by high-resolution computed tomography scan were persistently higher. Lung diffusing capacity, membrane diffusing capacity, and pulmonary capillary blood volume estimated at a given cardiac output were significantly higher in animals exposed to HA, whereas maximal oxygen uptake and hematocrit were similar between groups. We conclude that relatively short exposure to HA during somatic maturation improves long-term lung function into adulthood.