The spontaneous rupture of the internal elastic lamina (IEL) in various arteries occurs to different extents in different rat strains. We have quantified this phenomenon in the caudal and renal arteries and abdominal aorta in two normotensive inbred strains: the Brown Norway (BN) and Long Evans (LE) strains. At 5 weeks of age, BN rats of both sexes exhibited small numbers of interruptions in the IEL of the caudal artery, whereas LE rats did not. Postpubertal male and female BN rats presented large numbers of IEL interruptions in the caudal artery and significant numbers in the renal artery and abdominal aorta, whereas LE rats showed few in the caudal artery and none in the other arteries. Treatment with β -aminopropionitrile (BAPN, an inhibitor of lysyl oxidase, the enzyme involved in the formation of cross-links in elastin and collagen) increased the formation of IEL ruptures in both strains in the caudal and renal artery and in the abdominal aorta in BN rats, but not in the abdominal aorta of LE rats. Apart from IEL ruptures, which were more prevalent in BN rats, no differences were observed in the ultrastructure of the aortic elastic fibers between the two strains, either in controls or in BAPN-treated rats. When male rats of both strains were made hypertensive by unilateral nephrectomy and administration of deoxycorticosterone and salt, mortality was more precocious in the BN strain although blood pressure was significantly higher in the BN strain at only one time point. The incidence of cerebrovascular hemorrhage was 48% in BN rats and 0% in LE rats. Hypertension increased the formation of ruptures in the IEL in some arteries – to a greater extent in the BN than in the LE rats. These results raise the possibility that the propensity to spontaneous rupture of the IEL, which is in part genetically determined, may reflect a latent form of vascular fragility which becomes significant in hypertension, resulting in poor survival and susceptibility to cerebrovascular accidents.