Abstract Pestiviruses are not strictly host-species specific and can infect not only domestic but also wild animals. The most important pestivirus, CSFV, infects domestic pigs and wild boars, which may cause a major problem for successful CSFV eradication programmes. Mainly BVDV specific antibodies have been reported in captive and free-living animals. Virus has been isolated from some of these animal species, but since BVDV can contaminate cell cultures and foetal calf serum, early reports of BVDV isolation have to be considered with caution. Genetic typing of early pestivirus isolates from wild species revealed that the majority were BVDV-1. Of the pestiviruses identified so far three species (CSFV, BVDV-1, giraffe pestivirus) and three genotypes (BDV-2, BDV-4, pronghorn) appear to circulate in wildlife animal populations. The potential for pestiviruses to spread between farm animals and free-living animals is discussed as are epidemiological and technical problems, and the future direction of research.