Two recombinant classical swine fever (CSF) viruses (Flc2, Flc3) transcribed from a DNA copy of the genome of the Chinese (C) strain, a CSF virus vaccine strain, were characterized in vivo in rabbits and pigs. Rabbits were inoculated intravenously with Flc2 or Flc3, the parent C-strain virus, a biologically cloned C-strain or CSF virus strain Brescia (C.1.1.1). After 24–96 h fever was detected in the rabbits inoculated with the different C-strain viruses. Apart from those in the control group, all the C-strain inoculated rabbits had developed CSF virus neutralizing antibodies 4 weeks later and were protected against a parent C-strain challenge. In the second experiment, pigs were inoculated with the parent C-strain or recombinant C-strain virus (Flc2 or Flc3) and then challenged after 4 weeks with the virulent CSF virus strain Brescia. None of the pigs showed clinical signs of classical swine fever after vaccination or challenge, whereas the control pigs developed clinical signs typical for acute CSF. Pigs inoculated with the different C-strain viruses were not viremic after inoculation or challenge, and CSF virus neutralizing antibodies were detected from day 14 onwards. The results from both experiments demonstrated that the two recombinant viruses had retained the biological and immunogenic properties of the parent C-strain in rabbits and pigs. We conclude that the full-length cDNA of the C-strain can serve as a matrix for further development of a live recombinant CSF virus marker vaccine.