The effects of vortex-like and non-thermal ion distributions are incorporated in the study of nonlinear dust-acoustic waves in an unmagnetized dusty plasma. It is found that owing to the departure from the Boltzmann ion distribution to a vortex-like phase space distribution, the dynamics of small but finite amplitude dust-acoustic waves is governed by a modified Kortweg-de Vries equation. The latter admits a stationary dust-acoustic solitary wave solution, which has larger amplitude, smaller width, and higher propagation velocity than that involving adiabatic ions. On the other hand, consideration of a non-thermal ion distribution provides the possibility of coexistence of large amplitude rarefactive as well as compressive dust-acoustic solitary waves, whereas these structures appear independently when the wave amplitudes become infinitely small. The present investigation should help us to understand the salient features of the non-linear dust-acoustic waves that have been observed in a recent numerical simulation study. (C) 1996 American Institute of Physics.