DNA from 252 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cattle and 376 non-diseased control cattle were genotyped for nine loci in the prion protein (PRNP) gene region, three loci in the neurofibromin 1 (NF1) region and four control loci on different chromosomes. The allele and genotype frequencies of the control loci were similar in BSE and control cattle. In the analysed 7.4 Mb PRNP region, the largest differences between BSE and control cattle were found for the loci REG2, R16 and R18, which are located between +300 and +5600 bp, spanning PRNP introns 1 to 2. Carriers of the REG2 genotype 128/128 were younger at BSE diagnosis than those with the other genotypes (128/140 or 140/140). The predominant haplotype REG2 128 bp–R18 173 bp occurred more frequently (P < 0.001), and the second-most frequent haplotype (REG2 140 bp–R18 175 bp) occurred less frequently (P < 0.05) in BSE than in control cattle. The largest frequency differences between BSE and control groups were observed in the Brown Swiss breed. Across all breeds, most of the same alleles and haplotypes of the PRNP region were associated with BSE. In the 23-cM NF1 region, associations with BSE incidence were found for the RM222 allele and for the DIK4009 genotype frequencies. Cattle carrying RM222 genotypes with the 127- or 129-bp alleles were about half a year older at BSE incidence than those with other genotypes. Across the breeds, different alleles and genotypes of the NF1 region were associated with BSE. The informative DNA markers were used to localize the genetic disposition to BSE and may be useful for the identification of the causative DNA variants.