A cattle genetic linkage map was constructed which marks about 90% of the expected length of the cattle genome. Over 200 DNA polymorphisms were genotyped in cattle families which comprise 295 individuals in full sibling pedigrees. One hundred and seventy-one loci were found linked to one other locus. Twenty nine of the 30 chromosome pairs are represented by at least one of the 36 linkage groups. Less than a 50 cM difference was found in the male and female genetic maps. The conserved loci on this map show as many differences in gene order compared to humans as is found between humans and mice. The conservation is consistent with the patterns of karyotypic evolution found in the rodents, primates and artiodactyls. This map will be important for localizing quantitative trait loci and provides a basis for further mapping.