Commercially available human chromosome-specific DNA libraries covering the whole karyotype were hybridized to normal bovine metaphase spreads to characterize the conserved chromosomal segments between man and cattle. All chromosome libraries except the Y chromosome library displayed a signal on at least part of one or more bovine chromosomes. The labeling was clearly visualized and permitted precise delineation of the hybridized bovine chromosomal segments. This study indicates that the reorganization of the genetic material between human and bovine genomes is not as great as expected from classical comparative cytogenetics based on banding patterns. However, apart from interchromosomal rearrangements between ancestral forms of human and bovine chromosomes, a majority of intrachromosomal rearrangements must have occurred in these species during evolution to explain the differences in the banding patterns of their chromosomes. These results show that chromosome painting with heterologous chromosome-specific DNA libraries can provide useful information in comparative studies on karyotypes and gene maps of distantly related mammalian species. The observations are discussed in relation to published data on gene mapping in man and cattle.