Bacteriophages of lactic acid bacteria are a threat to industrial milk fermentation. Owing to their economical importance, dairy phages became the most thoroughly sequenced phage group in the database. Comparative genomics identified related cos-site and pac-site phages, respectively, in lactococci, lactic streptococci and lactobacilli. Each group was represented with closely related temperate and virulent phages. Over the structural genes their gene maps resembled that of lambdoid coliphages, suggesting distant evolutionary relationships. Despite a lack of sequence similarity, a number of biochemical characteristics of these dairy phages are lambda-like (genetic switch, DNA packaging, head and tail morphogenesis, and integration, but not excision). These dairy phages thus provide interesting variations to the phage lambda paradigm. The structural gene cluster of Lactococcus phage r1t resembled that of phages from mycobacteria. Virulent lactococcal phages with prolate heads (c2-like genus of Siphoviridae), in contrast, have no known counterparts in other bacterial genera.