Summary The purpose of this study was to determine if Otarine Herpesvirus-1 (OtHV-1) is associated with the presence of urogenital carcinomas in California sea lions. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis with primers specific for OtHV-1 was used to compare the prevalence of OtHV-1 infection in 15 sea lions affected by urogenital carcinoma with that of age-matched and juvenile tumour-free animals, and animals with tumours of non-urogenital origin. The herpesvirus was more prevalent (100%) and more widespread in the 15 animals with urogenital carcinoma than in 25 control animals, and was most often found in the urogenital tissue (vagina and prostate) and in the draining lymph nodes. Moreover, OtHV-1 DNA was not found in any juvenile animal, or in the neoplastic tissues of animals with non-urogenital tumours. Papillomavirus-specific PCR analysis of urogenital carcinoma tissues detected papillomavirus sequences in only one carcinomatous tissue. Further studies are needed to determine if OtHV-1 contributes to oncogenesis in the California sea lion; these data show, however, that OtHV-1 is associated with urogenital carcinomas, is preferentially present in urogenital tissues, and may be sexually transmitted. Papillomaviruses, which are known to contribute to urogenital tumours in other species, did not appear to be associated with the sea lion carcinomas.