Pseudorabies virus (PRV) China reference strain Ea is genetically closely related to newly emerged variants; however, there is limited information about PRV Ea. Here, we compared PRV Ea with new variant strains by growth kinetics, genome sequencing, and protein expression analysis. Growth analysis showed that strain Ea forms smaller plaques than strain HNX. The full-length genome sequence of Ea revealed that it is clustered in the same subgroup as HNX. Ea and HNX strains exhibited similar extracellular virion protein polymorphisms, whereas strain Bartha expressed less VP26 and more GAPDH. In infected cells, strain Ea expressed high levels of IE180 protein, and Ea and HNX produced higher levels of UL21 protein than strain Bartha. These findings provide evidence that PRV China reference strain Ea is genetically closely related to the newly emerged variant strains, indicating that strain PRV China may have evolved independently leading to the emergence of a variant strain. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.