Spain suffered an outbreak of classical swine fever between June 14, 2001 and May 7, 2002, which affected 49 herds; this paper describes the epidemiological characteristics of the 39 herds that were affected in Catalonia, an area of high pig density in the north east of Spain. The outbreak took place in two waves, which affected first the province of Lleida and then Barcelona. A total of 291,058 animals were slaughtered, 59,595 belonging to infected herds; 22 of the infected herds were detected on the basis of clinical suspicion on the part of the farmer or farm veterinarian, and the other 17 were detected by surveillance methods. The transmission of the virus between herds was attributed to the movement of people in 23 per cent of the cases, to animals in 13 per cent, vehicles in 10 per cent, proximity 18 per cent, the pick-up service of the rendering plant in 8 per cent and slurry in 5 per cent; in the other nine herds (23 per cent) the route of entry of the disease could not be established. The viruses isolated in the two waves of the outbreak were 100 per cent homologous and belonged to subgroup 2.3. The origin of the outbreak remains unknown.