Twenty-three Escherichia coli O26 strains from humans, cattle, sheep, pigs and chicken were investigated for virulence markers and for genetic similarity by pulsed field gel electrophoresis and multi locus sequence typing. Two groups of genetically closely related O26 strains were defined. One group is formed by enteropathogenic (EPEC) and enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) E. coli strains, which do not ferment rhamnose and dulcitol and most of these carry a plasmid encoding enterohemolysin. The other group consists of rhamnose and dulcitol fermenting EPEC strains, which carry plasmids encoding α-hemolysin. Multiple species of domestic animals were shown to serve as a reservoir for human pathogenic O26 EPEC and EHEC strains.