Two new PCR-based methods were developed to decode prion protein (PrP) gene polymorphisms at codons 136, 154 and 171: a PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis consisting of two PCR reactions followed by three enzymatic digestions, and a real-time PCR consisting of four reactions with seven fluorogenic probes. Both methods were used to study the distribution of PrP gene polymorphisms in a representative sample (1297 animals) of the populations of the two native breeds of sheep of the Spanish Basque Country, Latxa and Carranzana. Fourteen genotypes were found in the Latxa breed, in which ARQ/ARQ was the genotype most frequently observed (49.3 per cent), followed by ARR/ARQ (32.6 per cent) and ARQ/ARH (5.8 per cent). The genotype associated with the highest resistance to scrapie (ARR/ARR) was present in 5 per cent of the animals analysed. Similar results were observed in the Carranzana sheep.