Dendritic cells (DC) are the main immune mediators inducing primary immune responses. DC generated from monocytes (MoDC) are a model system to study the biology of DC in vitro, as they represent inflammatory DC in vivo. Previous studies on the generation of MoDC in horses indicated that there was no distinct difference between immature and mature DC and that the expression profile was distinctly different from humans, where CD206 is expressed on immature MoDC whereas CD83 is expressed on mature MoDC. Here we describe the kinetics of equine MoDC differentiation and activation, analysing both phenotypic and functional characteristics. Blood monocytes were first differentiated with equine granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin-4 generating immature DC (iMoDC). These cells were further activated with a cocktail of cytokines including interferon-γ) but not CD40 ligand to obtain mature DC (mMoDC). To determine the expression of a broad range of markers for which no monoclonal antibodies were available to analyse the protein expression, microarray and quantitative PCR analysis were performed to carry out gene expression analysis. This study demonstrates that equine iMoDC and mMoDC can be distinguished both phenotypically and functionally but the expression pattern of some markers including CD206 and CD83 is dissimilar to the human system.