The Chinese rufous horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus sinicus) has been suggested to carry the direct ancestor of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SCoV), and the diversity of SARS-like CoVs (SLCoV) within this Rhinolophus species is therefore worth investigating. Here, we demonstrate the remarkable diversity of SLCoVs in R. sinicus and identify a strain with the same pattern of phylogenetic incongruence (i.e. an indication of recombination) as reported previously in another SLCoV strain. Moreover, this strain possesses a distinctive 579 nt deletion in the nsp3 region that was also found in a human SCoV from the late-phase epidemic. Phylogenetic analysis of the Orf1 region suggested that the human SCoVs are phylogenetically closer to SLCoVs in R. sinicus than to SLCoVs in other Rhinolophus species. These findings reveal a closer evolutionary linkage between SCoV in humans and SLCoVs in R. sinicus, defining the scope of surveillance to search for the direct ancestor of human SCoVs.