We present the comparative characterisation of 195 non-aureus staphylococci (NAS) isolates obtained from sheep (n = 125) and humans (n = 70) in Sardinia, Italy, identified at the species level by gap gene polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis with AluI. Isolates were tested phenotypically with a disc diffusion method and genotypically by PCR, for resistance to 11 antimicrobial agents including cationic antiseptic agents. Among the ovine isolates, Staphylococcus epidermidis (n = 57), S. chromogenes (n = 29), S. haemolyticus (n = 17), S. simulans (n = 8) and S. caprae (n = 6) were the most prevalent species, while among human isolates, S. haemolyticus (n = 28) and S. epidermidis (n = 26) were predominant, followed by S. lugdunensis and S. hominis (n = 4). Of the 125 ovine isolates, 79 (63.2%) did not carry any of the resistance genes tested, while the remainder carried resistance genes for at least one antibiotic. The highest resistance rates among ovine isolates were recorded against tetracycline (20.8%), and penicillin (15.2%); none was resistant to methicillin and two exhibited multidrug resistance (MDR); one of which was positive for the antiseptic resistance smr gene. By contrast, most human isolates (59/70, 84.3%) were resistant to ⩾1 antimicrobials, and 41 (58.6%) were MDR. All 52 (74.3%) penicillin-resistant isolates possessed the blaZ gene, and 33 of 70 (47.1%) harboured the mec gene; of these, seven were characterised by the Staphylococcal Chromosomal Cassette (SCCmec) type IV, 6 the type V, 5 of type III and one representative each of type I and type II. The majority (57.1%) was erythromycin-resistant and 17 isolates carried only the efflux msrA gene, 11 the methylase ermC gene and an equal number harboured both of the latter genes. Moreover, 23 (32.8%) were tetracycline-resistant and all but one possessed only the efflux tetK gene. qacA/B and smr genes were detected in 27 (38.6%) and 18 (25.7%) human NAS, respectively. These results underline a marked difference in species distribution and antimicrobial resistance between ovine and human-derived NAS.