This review outlines the most frequently used rodent stroke models and discusses their strengths and shortcomings. Mimicking all aspects of human stroke in one animal model is not feasible because ischemic stroke in humans is a heterogeneous disorder with a complex pathophysiology. The transient or permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) model is one of the models that most closely simulate human ischemic stroke. Furthermore, this model is characterized by reliable and well-reproducible infarcts. Therefore, the MCAo model has been involved in the majority of studies that address pathophysiological processes or neuroprotective agents. Another model uses thromboembolic clots and thus is more convenient for investigating thrombolytic agents and pathophysiological processes after thrombolysis. However, for many reasons, preclinical stroke research has a low translational success rate. One factor might be the choice of stroke model. Whereas the therapeutic responsiveness of permanent focal stroke in humans declines significantly within 3 hours after stroke onset, the therapeutic window in animal models with prompt reperfusion is up to 12 hours, resulting in a much longer action time of the investigated agent. Another major problem of animal stroke models is that studies are mostly conducted in young animals without any comorbidity. These models differ from human stroke, which particularly affects elderly people who have various cerebrovascular risk factors. Choosing the most appropriate stroke model and optimizing the study design of preclinical trials might increase the translational potential of animal stroke models.