The H3N2 influenza viruses became widespread in humans during the 1968 H3N2 pandemic and have been a major cause of influenza epidemics ever since. Different lineages of H3N2 influenza viruses are also commonly found in animals. If a different lineage of H3N2 virus jumps to humans, a human influenza pandemic could occur with devastating consequences. Here, we studied the genetics, receptor-binding properties, and replication and transmission in mammals of 15 H3N2 avian influenza viruses detected in live poultry markets in China. We found that the H3N2 avian influenza viruses are complicated reassortants with distinct replication phenotypes in mice. Five viruses replicated efficiently in mice and bound to both human-type and avian-type receptors. These viruses transmitted efficiently to direct-contact guinea pigs, and three of them also transmitted among guinea pigs and ferrets via respiratory droplets. Moreover, ferret antiserum induced by human H3N2 viruses did not react with any of the H3N2 avian influenza viruses. Our study demonstrates that the H3N2 avian influenza viruses pose a clear threat to human health and emphasizes the need for continued surveillance and evaluation of the H3N2 influenza viruses circulating in nature.