Anaerobic fungi (Neocallimastigales) are active degraders of fibrous plant material in the rumen. However, only limited information is available relating to how quickly they colonize ingested feed particles. The aim of this study was to determine the dynamics of initial colonization of forage by anaerobic fungi in the rumen and the impact of different postsampling wash procedures used to remove loosely associated microorganisms. Neocallimastigales-specific molecular techniques were optimized to ensure maximal coverage before application to assess the population size (quantitative PCR) and composition (automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis) of the colonizing anaerobic fungi. Colonization of perennial ryegrass (PRG) was evident within 5 min, with no consistent effect of time or wash procedure on fungal population composition. Wash procedure had no effect on population size unlike time, which had a significant effect. Colonizing fungal population size continued to increase over the incubation period after an initial lag of c. 4 min. This dynamic differs from that reported previously for rumen bacteria, where substantial colonization of PRG occurred within 5 min. The observed delay in colonization of plant material by anaerobic fungi is suggested to be primarily mediated by the time taken for fungal zoospores to locate, attach and encyst on plant material.