With progressing age, large arteries diminish their longitudinal stretch, which in extreme cases results in tortuosity. Increased age is also associated with loss of vessel distensibility. We measured pressure-diameter curves from muscular porcine carotid arteries ex vivo at different longitudinal stretch ratios (lambda(z) = 1.4 and 1.8) and under different vascular smooth muscle (VSM) conditions (fully relaxed, normal VSM tone, and maximally contracted). Distensibility was found to be halved by decreasing longitudinal stretch from lambda(z) = 1.8 to 1.4 at physiological pressures. This counterintuitive observation is possible because highly nonlinear elastic modulus of the artery and anisotropic properties. Furthermore, a significantly larger basal VSM contraction was observed at lambda(z) = 1.8 than 1.4, although this was clearly not related to a myogenic response during inflation. This dependence of VSM tone to longitudinal stretch may have possible implications on the functional characteristics of the arterial wall.