Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection of simian cells is restricted at an early postentry step by host factors whose mechanism of action is unclear. These factors target the viral capsid protein (CA) and attenuate reverse transcription, suggesting that they bind to the HIV-1 core and interfere with its uncoating. To identify the relevant binding determinants in the capsid, we tested the capacity of viruses containing Gag cleavage site mutations and amino acid substitutions in CA to inhibit restriction of a wild type HIV-1 reporter virus in owl monkey cells. The results demonstrated that a stable, polymeric capsid and a correctly folded amino-terminal CA subunit interface are essential for saturation of host restriction in target cells by HIV-1 cores. We conclude that the owl monkey cellular restriction machinery recognizes a polymeric array of CA molecules, most likely via direct engagement of the HIV-1 capsid in target cells prior to uncoating.