The causes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are largely unknown. However, RA is most probably a multifactorial disease with contributions from genetic and environmental factors. Searches for genes that influence RA have been conducted in both human and experimental model materials. Both types of study have confirmed the polygenic inheritance of the disease. It has become clear that the features of RA complicate the human genetic studies. Animal models are therefore valuable tools for identifying genes and determining their pathogenic role in the disease. This is probably the fastest route towards unravelling the pathogenesisis of RA and developing new therapies.