The analysis of cattle MHC (BoLA) class I gene expression is an essential component of studies on immune responses and susceptibility to disease. International BoLA workshops have generated data and reagents that allow discrimination of class I molecules at the haplotype level, but progress has been limited by difficulties encountered in defining single alleles. Our aim in this study was to develop a DNA-based system for improved identification of expressed class I alleles, utilizing available cDNA sequences derived from cattle carrying a series of serologically defined class I specificities. This method has allowed more accurate typing of animals for expression of the class I genes present within a small number of haplotypes. The method has also reliably differentiated between allelic variants (identified by prior sequence analysis) and has split existing serological specificities. The data show that MHC class I genes in cattle are more polymorphic than demonstrated by serology and biochemical analysis.