We identified approximately 13 000 putative single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) by comparison of repeat-masked BAC-end sequences from the cattle RPCI-42 BAC library with whole-genome shotgun contigs of cattle genome assembly Btau 1.0. Genotyping of a subset of these SNPs was performed on a panel containing 186 DNA samples from 18 cattle breeds including 43 trios. Of 1039 SNPs confirmed as polymorphic in the panel, 998 had minor allele frequency > or =0.25 among unrelated individuals of at least one breed. When Btau 4.0 became available, 974 of these validated SNPs were assigned in silico to known cattle chromosomes, while 41 SNPs were mapped to unassigned sequence scaffolds, yielding one SNP every approximately 3 Mbp on average. Twenty-four SNPs identified in Btau 1.0 were not mapped to Btau 4.0. Of the 1015 SNPs mapped to Btau 4.0, 959 SNPs had nucleotide bases identical in Btau 4.0 and Btau 1.0 contigs, whereas 56 bases were changed, resulting in the loss of the in silico SNP in Btau 4.0. Because these 1039 SNPs were all directly confirmed by genotyping on the multi-breed panel, it is likely that the original polymorphisms were correctly identified. The 1039 validated SNPs identified in this study represent a new and useful resource for genome-wide association studies and applications in animal breeding.