A method for MHC DRB typing in cattle based on two closely linked and highly polymorphic microsatellites is described. The two microsatellites DRBP1ms and DRB3ms are located in intron 2 of the corresponding DRB gene. The very strong linkage disequilibrium between the two loci made it possible to establish DRB microsatellite haplotypes. The typing results with this method on reference samples followed closely that obtained with RFLP and direct sequence analysis of DRB3 exon 2. The method is well suited for large scale genotyping and was successfully applied for typing more than 600 unrelated animals representing 23 breeds. The data were used to test whether the observed DRB allele frequency distributions were consistent with that expected for selectively neutral alleles in populations at mutation-drift equilibrium. A significant heterozygosity excess was detected and there was an obvious trend across breeds towards a more even allele frequency distribution than expected. The deviation may be due to balancing selection acting on the DRB locus or by recent population bottlenecks.