The imminent completion of the genome sequence of Mycobacterium bovis will reveal the genetic blueprint for this most successful pathogen. Comparative analysis with the genome sequences of M. tuberculosis and M. bovis BCG promises to expose the genetic basis for the phenotypic differences between the tubercle bacilli, offering unparalleled insight into the virulence factors of the M. tuberculosis complex. Initial analysis of the sequence data has already revealed a novel deletion from M. bovis, as well as identifying variation in members of the PPE family of proteins. As the study of bacterial pathogenicity enters the postgenomic phase, the genome sequence of M. bovis promises to serve as a cornerstone of mycobacterial genetics.