The diversity and biology of Cryptosporidium that is specific for rats (Rattus spp.) are not well studied. We examined the occurrence and genetic diversity of Cryptosporidium spp. in wild brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) by microscopy and polymerase chain reaction (PCR)/sequencing targeting the small subunit rDNA (SSU), actin and HSP70 genes. Out of 343 faecal samples tested, none were positive by microscopy and 55 were positive by PCR. Sequence analysis of SSU gene revealed the presence of Cryptosporidium muris (n = 4), C. andersoni (n = 3), C. ryanae (n = 1), C. occultus (n = 3), Cryptosporidium rat genotype I (n = 23), Cryptosporidium rat genotype IV (n = 16) and novel Cryptosporidium rat genotype V (n = 5). Spherical oocysts of Cryptosporidium rat genotype I obtained from naturally-infected rats, measuring 4.4–5.4 μm × 4.3–5.1 μm, were infectious to the laboratory rats, but not to the BALB/c mice (Mus musculus) nor Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus). The prepatent period was 3 days post infection and the patent period was longer than 30 days. Naturally- and experimentally-infected rats showed no clinical signs of disease. Percentage of nucleotide similarities at the SSU, actin, HSP70 loci between C. ratti n. sp. and the rat derived C. occultus and Cryptosporidium rat genotype II, III, IV, and V ranged from 91.0 to 98.1%. These genetic variations were similar or greater than that observed between closely related species, i.e. C. parvum and C. erinacei (93.2–99.5%). Our morphological, genetic and biological data support the establishment of Cryptosporidium rat genotype I as a new species, Cryptosporidium ratti n. sp.