Genetic animal models are central to ongoing efforts to elucidate the pathophysiology and genetic basis of hypertension. The rat is the leading species in experimental hypertension. Several rat models of hypertension are available for research, including inbred strains, congenic lines, transgenic animals and recombinant inbred strains. Each of these models has been designed to express different phenotypes, including spontaneous hypertension, salt sensitivity, stress sensitivity and susceptibility to end-organ damage. All these models have been extremely useful in the search for the physiological mechanisms that underlie hypertension, but some of them have been specifically designed for detecting the hypertension genes. This latter task is extremely complex in spontaneous hypertension, but genetic animal models may simplify the task by enabling to focus on specific phenotypes. Despite intensive efforts over nearly 3 decades, the genetic basis of hypertension has not been unveiled so far in the rat or in other species. Recent dense mapping of the rat genome, the development of new strategies and technologies in molecular genetics including differential gene expression, expressed sequence tags and DNA biochips render hope that the formidable task of identification of new candidate genes in hypertension will move another major step forward. Once these genes are identified, their function and role in hypertension will have to be determined, utilizing functional genomic strategies and bioinformatics. Finally, the findings in genetic animal models of hypertension will have to be extrapolated to humans by homology and syntenic mapping strategies.