Twenty-nine strains of 14 species of rumen bacteria were screened for their ability to hydrolyse Ala, Ala, GlyArg-4-methoxy-2-naphthylamide (GlyArg-MNA) and Leu-MNA. Several species, notably Megasphaera elsdenii, were active against Ala, and a smaller number, including Bacteroides ruminicola, Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens, Ruminococcus flavefaciens, Lachnospira multipara and Ruminobacter amylophilus, broke down Ala. Streptococcus bovis had an exceptionally high leucine arylamidase activity. However, only Ba. ruminicola hydrolysed GlyArg-MNA. Further investigation revealed that only Ba. ruminicola and Bu fibrisolvens hydrolysed Ala to Ala and Ala, with little Ala being produced, in a manner similar to rumen fluid. The activity of Ba. ruminicola against synthetic peptidase substrates, including GlyArg-MNA, LysAla-MNA, ArgArg-MNA, GlyPro-MNA, LeuVal-MNA, and Ala-p-nitroanilide, was similar to that of rumen fluid, whereas the activity of Bu fibrisolvens was quite different. Since the main mechanism by which peptides are broken down in the rumen is similar to dipeptidyl aminopeptidase type I, for which GlyArg-MNA is a diagnostic substrate, it was concluded that Ba ruminicola was the most important single species in peptide breakdown in the rumen.