A total of 2126 herds, an attack rate of 0.82 per cent, were affected during an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in Argentina in 2001. The spatial and temporal distribution of the epidemic was investigated using nearest-neighbour and spatial scan tests and by estimating the frequency distributions of the times to intervention, and distances and times between outbreaks. The outbreaks were clustered and associated significantly (P<0.01) with herd density; 94 per cent were located in the Pampeana region, where the cattle population is concentrated, which had an attack rate of 1.4 per cent. The clustering results suggested that the virus had spread locally between outbreaks. Most of the outbreaks were separated by one day and the maximum distance between outbreaks was almost 2000 km, indicating that the infection spread rapidly over large distances. The index outbreak was detected more than 15 days after the primary outbreak, and restrictions on the movement of cattle were probably not enforced until about one month after infection occurred. As in other major epidemics, the period between the first outbreaks and the effective application of control strategies was probably crucial in determining the progress of the epidemic.