To test the hypothesis that vesicular stomatitis New Jersey virus (VSV-NJ) persists in convalescent cattle, we used explant cultures and reverse transcription nested polymerase chain reactions to probe for viral genomic, replicative intermediate, and mRNA in two cows experimentally inoculated in the tongue 5 months earlier and three cows naturally infected 4-14 months previously. Virus was not isolated from any tissues of any animal. Sequences of the viral polymerase and nucleocapsid genes were consistently identified in the tongue and lymph nodes draining the tongue of both experimentally infected animals but not in the three naturally infected animals. Replicative intermediate but not messenger RNA sequences were detected. These results showed for the first time the long term persistence of VSV-NJ RNA in its bovine host.