Canine distemper virus (CDV) infects wild and domestic Canidae worldwide. The hemag- glutinin (H) gene has the highest genetic variation in the genome of this virus. Thus, the H gene is commonly used for lineage identification and genetic analyses. In order to study the genetic characteristics and pathogenicity of CDV strains prevalent in China, 132 samples were collected from domestic dogs with suspected CDV infection, 58 samples were confirmed to be positive, and the H gene was successfully amplified from 15 samples. The epidemic strain was identified as type Asia-1 and the novel mutations, A51T, V58I, R179K and D262N, were detected in this strain. Isolated strains, BJ16B53, BJ16B14, and BJ17B8, were used for an animal infection experiment in raccoon dogs. BJ16B53 and BJ16B14 were found to cause clinical symptoms, death, and exten- sive lesions in various organs. These results are expected to facilitate the development of effective strategies to monitor and control CDV infection in China.