We previously described a method for isolating murine hematopoietic stem cells capable of reconstituting lethally irradiated recipients, which depends solely on dual-wavelength flow cytometric analysis of murine bone marrow cells stained with the fluorescent DNA-binding dye Hoechst 33342. This method, which appears to rely on the differential ability of stem cells to efflux the Hoechst dye, defines an extremely small and homogeneous population of cells (termed SP cells). We show here that dual-wavelength analysis of Hoechst dye-stained human, rhesus and miniature swine bone marrow cells reveals a small, distinct population of cells that efflux the dye in a manner identical to murine SP cells. Like the murine SP cells, both human and rhesus SP cells are primarily CD34-negative and lineage marker-negative. In vitro culture studies demonstrated that rhesus SP cells are highly enriched for long-term culture-initiating cells (LTC-ICs), an indicator of primitive hematopoietic cells, and have the capacity for differentiation into T cells. Although rhesus SP cells do not initially possess any hematopoietic colony-forming capability, they acquire the ability to form colonies after long-term culture on bone marrow stroma, coincident with their conversion to a CD34-positive phenotype. These studies suggest the existence of a hitherto unrecognized population of hematopoietic stem cells that lack the CD34 surface marker classically associated with primitive hematopoietic cells.