Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is required for ovarian antral folliculogenesis and steroidogenesis, and there is increasing evidence that it may play critical roles in preantral follicle development. We hypothesized that preantral follicles began responding to FSH as early as the primary stage of development. Our objectives were to establish whether the FSH receptor (FSHR) was expressed in bovine preantral follicles and to determine the effects of FSH in these follicles and the surrounding ovarian tissue. Preantral follicles were isolated from bovine ovaries and subjected to immunolocalization of FSHR. Ovarian cortical strips were cultured with FSH or vehicle for 2 or 4 days and subjected to RNA sequencing, hematoxylin/eosin staining and immunostaining for p42/44 MAPK. Finally, cortical strips were cultured for four days with FSH before western blot analysis of total and phosphorylated p42/44 MAPK, and total aromatase. We found greater FSHR labeling intensity per cell in preantral follicles at the primary stage compared to other stages (P < 0.05). FSH upregulated genes involved in energy metabolism and MAPK signaling and downregulated genes related to phagosome and allograft rejection in the ovarian cortex. Preantral follicles cultured in situ with FSH had greater expression of total p42/44 MAPK (P < 0.05), but no difference was detected in whole tissue western blot for phosphorylated p42/44 MAPK or aromatase. We conclude that the FSHR is expressed in preantral follicles as early as the primary stage of development, and that FSH upregulates cell metabolism and activates MAPK signaling pathways in preantral follicles.