The role of wildlife species in the epidemiology of paratuberculosis has been the subject of increased research efforts following the discovery of natural paratuberculosis in free-living rabbits from farms in east Scotland. This paper describes the experimental inoculation of young calves with an isolate of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis recovered from a free-living rabbit. After a 6-month incubation period, all eight calves inoculated with the rabbit isolate had developed histopathological and/or microbiological evidence of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection. Similar results were obtained from a group of calves infected with a bovine isolate of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis. The virulence of the rabbit isolate for calves demonstrated in this study suggests that rabbits are capable of passing paratuberculosis to domestic ruminants and that wildlife reservoirs of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis should therefore be considered when formulating control plans for the disease.