The nucleophosmin 1 gene (NPM1) encodes a multifunctional nucleolar phosphoprotein that plays a crucial role in the control of various aspects of cell growth and homeostasis. In this study, the coding region of the NPM1 gene was screened in 1035 individuals of 4 Chinese cattle breeds by DNA sequencing and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. A novel 12-bp deletion mutation was identified in the coding region of the NPM1 gene. The PCR products of primer NPM1-P2 exhibited 3 genotypes and 2 alleles: 178 bp (denoted as W) and 166 bp (denoted as D). Genotype DD and allele D were predominant in the studied populations. Association analysis with growth traits in the Nanyang breed (N = 265) showed that the animals with genotype DD had significantly greater birth weight, body weight, body length, and heart girth than those with genotype WD (P < 0.01 or P < 0.05) at birth and after 6 months and 12 months, but not at 18 and 24 months of age. Results of this study suggest that the NPM1 gene is a candidate gene for growth traits in cattle.