Hippuric acid (HA) in cattle urine acts as a natural inhibitor of soil N2O emissions. As HA concentration varies with diet, we determined critical HA levels. We also tested the hypothesis that the inhibition occurs because the HA breakdown product benzoic acid (BA) inhibits denitrification rates. During a 64-day incubation, we quantified emissions from artificial urine varying in HA, BA and glycine (Gly) concentrations, added to a sandy pasture soil. Increasing HA concentration from 0.4 to 5.6 mmol kg¿1 soil significantly decreased the average N2O flux by 54%. At 3.9 mmol kg¿1 soil, denitrification levels were 50% reduced for BA as compared to Gly. We conclude that HA inhibits both denitrification and N2O emission, at least partly through a BA mechanism.