The aim of this study was to investigate changes in the abundance of genes involved in leukocyte function between cows highly specialized for milk production (Holstein, n = 12) and cows selected for meat and milk (Simmental, n = 13). Blood was collected on d 3 after calving in PAXgene tubes (Preanalytix, Hombrechtikon, Switzerland) to measure mRNA abundance of 33 genes. Normalized gene abundance data were subjected to MIXED model ANOVA using SAS (SAS Institute Inc. Cary, NC). Simmental cows had greater transcript abundance of proinflammatory cytokines and receptor genes (IL1B, TNF, IL1R, TNFRSF1A), cell migration- and adhesion-related genes (CX3CR1, ITGB2, CD44, LGALS8), and the antimicrobial IDO1 gene. In contrast, compared with Holstein cows, Simmental cows had lower abundance of the toll-like receptor (TLR) recognition-related gene TLR2, the antimicrobial-related gene LTF, and S100A8, which is involved in cell maturation, regulation of inflammatory processes, and immune response. These results revealed that breed plays an important role in the modulation of genes involved in immune adaptation and inflammatory response, and the immune system of Simmental cows could potentially have a more acute response in early lactation. In turn, this might be beneficial for mounting a more efficient response after calving and allow for a smoother homeorhetic adaptation to lactation.