Feeding success depends on host availability, host defensive reactions and host preferences. Host choice is a critical determinant of the intensity at which pathogens are transmitted. The aim of the current study was to describe host preferences of Palaearctic Culicoides species (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) Latreille using traps baited with the five different host species of poultry, horse, cattle, sheep and goat. Collections were carried out nightly in July and August 2009 in western France with three replicates of a 5 × 5 randomized Latin square (five sites, five hosts). Moreover, an ultraviolet (UV) light/suction trap was operated during host-baited collections to correlate Culicoides biting rates and UV light/suction trap catches. A total of 660 Culicoides belonging to 12 species, but comprised mainly of Culicoides scoticus Downes and Kettle, Culicoides dewulfi Goetghebuer and Culicoides obsoletus Meigen, were collected on animal baits. Abundance was highest for the horse, which accounted for 95% of all Culicoides caught, representing 10 species. The horse, the largest bait, was the most attractive host, even when abundance data were corrected by weight, body surface or Kleiber's scaling factor. Culicoides obsoletus was the only dominant species attracted by birds. Both C. scoticus and C. dewulfi were collected mainly from the upper body of the horse. Finally, the quantification of host preferences allows for discussion of implications for the transmission of Culicoides-borne pathogens such as bluetongue virus.