The vomeronasal organ (VNO) has a key role in mediating the social and defensive responses of many terrestrial vertebrates to species- and sex-specific chemosignals. More than 250 putative pheromone receptors have been identified in the mouse VNO, but the nature of the signals detected by individual VNO receptors has not yet been elucidated. To gain insight into the molecular logic of VNO detection leading to mating, aggression or defensive responses, we sought to uncover the response profiles of individual vomeronasal receptors to a wide range of animal cues. Here we describe the repertoire of behaviourally and physiologically relevant stimuli detected by a large number of individual vomeronasal receptors in mice, and define a global map of vomeronasal signal detection. We demonstrate that the two classes (V1R and V2R) of vomeronasal receptors use fundamentally different strategies to encode chemosensory information, and that distinct receptor subfamilies have evolved towards the specific recognition of certain animal groups or chemical structures. The association of large subsets of vomeronasal receptors with cognate, ethologically and physiologically relevant stimuli establishes the molecular foundation of vomeronasal information coding, and opens new avenues for further investigating the neural mechanisms underlying behaviour specificity.