The aim of this work was to characterize oocyte fertilization and embryo cleavage in nine AI bulls to find parameters suitable for prediction of in vitro fertility. According to the d8 blastocysts rate, they were categorized as high, medium and low productive (HP, MP and LP, mean: 25.4, 21.0 and 13.6% respectively) bulls. For these categories, oocyte penetration and fertilization efficiency were assessed at 6 and 18 hours post insemination (hpi), respectively. Some presumptive zygotes were cultured and cleaved and fast-cleaved embryo rates were checked at 44 hpi. The penetration rate was significantly higher for HP bulls than for MP and LP bulls (67.9 versus 50.3 and 33.1%; p < 0.01). The syngamy rate was significantly higher for HP bulls than for MP and LP bulls (21.4 versus 10.2 and 5.7%; p < 0.05). Conversely, no significant differences in fertilization rates were found among HP, MP and LP bulls. The cleavage rate was significantly higher for HP than LP bulls (82.4 versus 74.4%; p < 0.01). The fast cleavage rate was significantly higher for both HP and MP bulls, as compared with LP bulls (82.1 and 84.7 versus 73.5%; p < 0.01). A strong correlation was found between blastocyst production and penetration (r = 0.803), syngamy (r = 0.826), cleavage (r = 0.635) and fast cleavage (r = 0.709). In conclusion, all the evaluated parameters showed a predictive value, the most significant being early penetration and syngamy.