Mycobacteria other than the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MOTT), isolated from Northern Ireland cattle, were identified by PCR amplification of the 16S rRNA gene, and subsequent reverse cross blot hybridisation and sequence analyses. Elucidation of the MOTT species was to facilitate specificity testing of new and existing diagnostic test reagents for bovine tuberculosis. The presence of the genes for potential diagnostic antigens: MPB70, MPB64, ESAT-6 and CFP-10 in the isolated MOTT species was investigated. Molecular analyses of cultured isolates from bovine lymph node specimens of 48 cattle identified a wide variety of mycobacterial species including Mycobacterium nonchromogenicum, Mycobacterium malmoense, Mycobacterium bohemicum, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium kansasii, Mycobacterium holsaticum, Mycobacterium palustre, Mycobacterium sp. IWGMT 90210, Mycobacterium sp. LIV-2129, a potentially novel mycobacterial species (EMBL/GenBank/DDBJ Accession Number AJ617495) and Rhodococcus equi. Apart from M. kansasii, the results of traditional (standard phenotypic and biochemical) and molecular identification methods did not correlate well, with traditional methods identifying fewer species. Most of the species identified were either recognised pathogenic or potential pathogenic species. The genes for ESAT-6, CFP-10 and, unusually, MPB64 were detected in M. kansasii only. The MPB70 gene was not detected in any of the species. This study supported restricted species distribution of these genes as well as identifying a different range of MOTT species that could be included in specificity testing of new diagnostic reagents for bovine tuberculosis.