BACKGROUND: Three Brown Swiss cows with abnormal regurgitation because of a perioesophageal disorder are described. CASE PRESENTATION: The cows were ill and had poor appetite, salivation and regurgitation of poorly-chewed feed. Collection of rumen juice was successful in one cow, and in another, the tube could be advanced to the level of the 7th intercostal space, and in the third, only saliva could be collected. In one cow, oesophagoscopy revealed a discoloured 10-cm mucosal area with fibrin deposits. Thoracic radiographs were normal. The cows were euthanased and examined postmortem. Cow 1 had a large perioesophageal abscess containing feed material at the level of the thoracic inlet, believed to be the result of a healed oesophageal injury. Cow 2 had an abscess between the oesophagus and trachea 25 cm caudal to the epiglottis with the same presumed aetiology as in cow 1. Cow 3 had a mediastinal carcinoma that enclosed and constricted the oesophagus. CONCLUSIONS: Abnormal regurgitation in cattle is usually the result of an oesophageal disorder. Causes of oesophageal disorders vary widely and their identification can be difficult.