During meiosis, homologous chromosome (homolog) pairing is promoted by several layers of regulation that include dynamic chromosome movement and meiotic recombination. However, the way in which homologs recognize each other remains a fundamental issue in chromosome biology. Here, we show that homolog recognition or association initiates upon entry into meiotic prophase before axis assembly and double-strand break (DSB) formation. This homolog association develops into tight pairing only during or after axis formation. Intriguingly, the ability to recognize homologs is retained in Sun1 knockout spermatocytes, in which telomere-directed chromosome movement is abolished, and this is the case even in Spo11 knockout spermatocytes, in which DSB-dependent DNA homology search is absent. Disruption of meiosis-specific cohesin RAD21L precludes the initial association of homologs as well as the subsequent pairing in spermatocytes. These findings suggest the intriguing possibility that homolog recognition is achieved primarily by searching for homology in the chromosome architecture as defined by meiosis-specific cohesin rather than in the DNA sequence itself.