Summary The present study was undertaken to identify dendritic cells (DCs) in the ileum and rectum of lambs and adult sheep. The distribution of these cells in four different intestinal compartments, i.e. lamina propria, lymphoid follicles, domes and interfollicular areas was assessed, and the presence of these cells in lambs and adult sheep was compared. Specimens were examined by using a number of potential DC markers (CD11c, CD205, MHC class II (MHCII), CD1b and CD209) in immunohistochemical and multicolour immunofluorescent procedures. The ovine ileal and rectal mucosa contain many CD11c+/CD205+ cells with a dendritic morphology, and the majority of these cells co-expressed MHCII. These double-positive cells were also labelled with the CD209 antibody in the lamina propria and interfollicular regions. Only very few cells expressed CD1b. In conclusion, a major DC population in ileum and rectum of sheep co-expressed the CD11c, CD205 and MHCII molecules. The CD209 antibody appeared to be a novel marker for a subpopulation of ovine intestinal DCs.