The aim of this study was to identify potential ligands and develop a novel diagnostic test to pathogenic bovine rotavirus (BRV) using phage display technology. The viruses were used as an immobilized target followed by incubation with a 12-mer phage display random peptide library. After five rounds of biopanning, phages had a specific binding activity to BRV were isolated. DNA sequencing indicated that phage displayed peptides HVHPPLRPHSDK, HATNHLPTPHNR or YPTHHAHTTPVR were potential ligands to BRV. Using the specific peptide-expressing phages, we developed a phage-based ELISA to differentiate BRV from other viruses. Compared with quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), the phage-mediated ELISA was more suitable for the capture of BRV and the detection limitation of this approach was 0.1 µg/ml of samples. The high sensitivity, specificity and low cross-reactivity for the phage-based ELISA were confirmed in receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis.