Isolates of various species of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) from extramammary swab samples were compared with isolates of bovine mastitis CNS species. Swab samples were taken from perineum skin and udder skin, teat apices and teat canals of lactating dairy cows of the research dairy herd of the University of Helsinki in 1999 and 2002. In addition, hands of herd staff and liners of teat cups were sampled for CNS. CNS isolates from milk samples of subclinical or clinical mastitis in the same herd were collected during 1998–2002. Species identification was performed using phenotyping (API Staph ID 32 test) and by constructing a 16 and 23S rRNA RFLP library (ribotyping). Based on phenotype, 84% of mastitis isolates and 57% of extramammary isolates were identified at species level with >90% probability. Ribotype patterns formed 24 clusters, and 15 of them included a CNS type strain. If the ribotype clusters contained isolates of both extramammary and mastitis origin, they were further typed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). The predominant CNS species in mastitis, based both on phenotyping and genotyping, were Staph. chromogenes and Staph. simulans. Phenotyping failed to identify half of the extramammary isolates. Based on phenotyping, Staph. equorum and Staph. sciuri, and based on ribotyping, Staph. succinus and Staph. xylosus, were the predominant CNS species in extramammary samples. The most common species in milk samples, Staph. chromogenes, was also isolated from several extramammary samples, and five out of ten pulsotypes were shared between mastitis and extramammary isolates, indicating that strains from udder skin are highly similar. The second commonest mastitis species, Staph. simulans, was isolated only from three extramammary samples, indicating that Staph. simulans may be more specifically associated with mastitis. Consequently, the origin of CNS mastitis may vary depending on the causing CNS species.