Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is an emerging pathogen of major concern throughout Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, affecting both livestock and humans. In the past recurrent epidemics were reported in Mauritania and studies focused on the analysis of samples from affected populations during acute outbreaks. To verify characteristics and presence of RVFV during non-epidemic periods we implemented a multi-stage serological and molecular analysis. Serum samples of small ruminants, cattle and camels were obtained from Mauritania during an inter-epidemic period in 2012–2013. This paper presents a comparative analysis of potential variations and shifts of antibody presence and the capability of inter-epidemic infections in Mauritanian livestock. We observed distinct serological differences between tested species (seroprevalence: small ruminants 3·8%, cattle 15·4%, camels 32·0%). In one single bovine from Nouakchott, a recent RVF infection could be identified by the simultaneous detection of IgM antibodies and viral RNA. This study indicates the occurrence of a low-level enzootic RVFV circulation in livestock in Mauritania. Moreover, results indicate that small ruminants can preferably act as sentinels for RVF surveillance.