Background Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious, granulomatous disease caused by acid-fast bacilli of the genus Mycobacterium. The disease affects practically all species of vertebrates. Although mammalian tuberculosis has been nearly controlled in many developed countries, it is still a serious problem in humans and domestic animals including pigs in developing countries. In Ethiopia, the prevalence of TB in pigs is not known. Therefore, this study was designed to estimate the prevalence of TB in pigs in central Ethiopia and to characterize the causative agents using molecular techniques. Results The estimated prevalence of TB was 5.8% (49/841). Age and origin of pigs were significantly associated (P<0.001) with the prevalence. In contrast, an association of sex, floor type and water source with the prevalence could not be shown. Culture positivity was confirmed in 30.6% (15/49) of the tuberculous-like lesions. Of the 15 isolates, 12 were acid fast positive while five of the latter were confirmed by multiplex PCR as members of the M. tuberculosis complex. Speciation of the five isolates further confirmed that they were M. tuberculosis, belonging to SIT1088 (two isolates) and SIT1195 (one isolate). The remaining two isolates belong to an identical spoligotype, the pattern of which was not found in the spoligotype database (SpolDB4). Conclusions The isolation of M. tuberculosis from pigs suggests a possible risk of transmission between humans and pigs. Hence, establishing feasible control methods is required.