Vernalization, a period of low temperature to induce transition from vegetative to reproductive state, is an important environmental stimulus for many cool season grasses. A key gene in the vernalization pathway in grasses is the VRN1 gene. The objective of this study was to identify causative polymorphism(s) at the VRN1 locus in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) for variation in vernalization requirement. Two allelic Bacterial Artificial Chromosome clones of the VRN1 locus from the two genotypes Veyo and Falster with contrasting vernalization requirements were identified, sequenced, and characterized. Analysis of the allelic sequences identified an 8.6-kb deletion in the first intron of the VRN1 gene in the Veyo genotype which has low vernalization requirement. This deletion was in a divergent recurrent selection experiment confirmed to be associated with genotypes with low vernalization requirement. The region surrounding the VRN1 locus in perennial ryegrass showed microcolinearity to the corresponding region on chromosome 3 in Oryza sativa with conserved gene order and orientation, while the micro-colinearity to the corresponding region in Triticum monococcum was less conserved. Our study indicates that the first intron of the VRN1 gene, and in particular the identified 8.6 kb region, is an important regulatory region for vernalization response in perennial ryegrass.