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This study, with the objective of assessing the effect of risk factors on dairy cow mastitis in the central highlands of Ethiopia, was undertaken between February and September 2001 in the urban and peri-urban areas of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A prevalence study and questionnaire survey were carried out simultaneously. Clinical examination of lactating udders and California mastitis test (CMT) determined clinical and subclinical mastitis, respectively. Risk factors for subclinical and clinical mastitis were identified from data on animals and farm management by chi-square analysis and subsequent logistic regression. Cows aged at least 8 years, with poor body condition, with at least 8 parities and in at least the eighth month of lactation had a significantly higher risk for subclinical mastitis (p < 0.05). The risk was reduced for cows up to their third parity in good body condition and for cows receiving dry cow therapy. Cows aged at least 4 years, or with at least 8 parities, cows in at least the fourth month of lactation, cows with poor body condition, leaking milk or previous udder infections had a significantly higher risk of clinical mastitis (p <0.05). The risk was reduced by the use of separate towels for udder cleaning and by drying off at the end of lactation. Most of the risk factors were in agreement with previous reports. However, stage of lactation and drying-off style were in contrast to others. Further research is needed to identify the interrelationship between production level, specific pathogens and management risk factors.