Molecular classification and systematics of the Theileria is based on the analysis of the 18S rRNA gene. Reverse line blot or conventional sequencing approaches have disadvantages in the study of 18S rRNA diversity and a next-generation 454 sequencing approach was investigated. The 18S rRNA gene was amplified using RLB primers coupled to 96 unique sequence identifiers (MIDs). Theileria positive samples from African buffalo (672) and cattle (480) from southern Africa were combined in batches of 96 and sequenced using the GS Junior 454 sequencer to produce 825711 informative sequences. Sequences were extracted based on MIDs and analysed to identify Theileria genotypes. Genotypes observed in buffalo and cattle were confirmed in the current study, while no new genotypes were discovered. Genotypes showed specific geographic distributions, most probably linked with vector distributions. Host specificity of buffalo and cattle specific genotypes were confirmed and prevalence data as well as relative parasitemia trends indicate preference for different hosts. Mixed infections are common with African buffalo carrying more genotypes compared to cattle. Associative or exclusion co-infection profiles were observed between genotypes that may have implications for speciation and systematics: specifically that more Theileria species may exist in cattle and buffalo than currently recognized. Analysis of primers used for Theileria parva diagnostics indicate that no new genotypes will be amplified by the current primer sets confirming their specificity. T. parva SNP variants that occur in the 18S rRNA hypervariable region were confirmed. A next generation sequencing approach is useful in obtaining comprehensive knowledge regarding 18S rRNA diversity and prevalence for the Theileria, allowing for the assessment of systematics and diagnostic assays based on the 18S gene.