Strains deviating in key phenotypic characters, mainly isolated from cases of bovine pneumonia in five European countries, were genotyped in order to examine their genotypic relationship with Pasteurella multocida. Twenty-two strains of Pasteurella avium biovar 2, including variants in indole, xylose and mannitol, 18 strains of Pasteurella canis biovar 2 and variants of this taxon, five strains of P multocida subsp. septica showing variations in indole and ornithine decarboxylase, nine strains of P. multocida subsp. multocida showing variation in ornithine decarboxylase and mannitol, and type strains of the subspecies of P. multocida were included. Ribotyping was used to examine the relationship of the strains, and 13 types, each containing between one and 20 isolates, were observed. Identical ribotypes; were observed in some cases for P. avium biovar 2 and either P. canis biovar 2 or P. multocida subsp. septica. ITS (16S-23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer) fragment-length profiling showed identity of the majority of strains (47 of 52), representing all four taxa, with only five divergent strains. A 16S rRNA sequence comparison of 11 strains representing the main ribotype clusters showed 99(.)9% similarity to the type strain of P. multocida subsp. multocida, but only 97.4% similarity was obtained to P. canis (biovar 1) and 93(.)7% to P. avium (biovar 1). A species-specific PCR test for P. multocida gave a positive result with biovar 2 variants of P. avium and P. canis. DNA-DNA hybridizations between strains of P. multocida, biovar 2 variants of P. avium and P. canis, and P. multocida subsp. septica confirmed similarity at the species level. It is proposed, on the basis of genotypic similarity, that P. multocida be reclassified to include the biovar 2 variants of P. avium and P. canis and that the existence of the biovar 2 variants of P. avium and P. canis is highly questionable. It is concluded that the redefined P. multocida is genotypically homogeneous, although phenotypically diverse lineages exist with respect to ornithine decarboxylase, indole and mannitol, characters that have been regarded as essential for identification to the species level. A format reclassification of the species is not possible, however, since too few strains have been found to vary in these key characters. Considering the phenotypic diversity of P. multocida, identification will have to depend partly on genotypic methods and the source host also seems important for safe diagnosis.