The objective of this study was to characterize the estrous cycle of cows with similar proportions of Holstein genetics, similar genetic merit for milk production traits, but with good (Fert+) or poor (Fert-) genetic merit for fertility traits. In total, 37 lactating cows were enrolled on a protocol to synchronize estrus. Nineteen Fert+ and 12 Fert- cows that successfully ovulated a dominant follicle and established a corpus luteum underwent daily transrectal ultrasonography. Blood sampling was carried out at 8-h intervals from d 0 to 6 and from d 15 to ovulation, and once daily from d 7 to 15. Blood samples were analyzed for progesterone, estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone. Estrus behavior was recorded using neck activity collars and mounting pads. The Fert+ cows tended to have fewer follicular waves (2.2 vs. 2.7) and had a shorter estrous cycle (21.0 vs. 25.1 d) than Fert- cows. We observed no effect of genotype on day of first-wave emergence or day of first-wave dominant follicle peak diameter, but the peak diameter of the first-wave dominant follicle tended to be larger in Fert- cows. During the first 13 d of the cycle, Fert+ cows developed a corpus luteum that was 16% larger than that in Fert- cows. Circulating progesterone concentrations were 34% greater in Fert+ than in Fert- cows (5.15 vs. 3.84ng/mL, respectively) from d 5 to 13. During the final follicular wave, the interval from preovulatory follicle emergence to ovulation and the interval from preovulatory follicle dominance to ovulation were similar in both genotypes. Maximum preovulatory follicle diameter was larger in Fert+ than Fert- cows (17.9 vs. 16.8mm, respectively); however, circulating concentrations of estradiol were not different between genotypes. A greater proportion of Fert- cows ovulated to a silent heat than Fert+ cows (22 vs. 2%, respectively). Of cows that showed behavioral estrus, Fert+ cows had 41% greater mean activity count; however, no difference was seen in mounting behavior between genotypes. These results demonstrate, for the first time, that genetic merit for fertility has pronounced effects on corpus luteum development, progesterone concentration, preovulatory follicle diameter, and behavioral estrus.