The time-dependent mechanical properties of sheep digital extensor tendons were studied by sequences of stress-relaxation tests. The results exhibited irreversible preconditioning and reversible viscoelasticity. Preconditioning effects were manifested by stress decay during consecutive stretch cycles to the same strain level, accompanied by elongation of the tendon's reference length. They intensified with increased strain level, and were reduced or became negligible as the strain decreased. The significance of intrinsic response mechanisms was studied via a structural model that includes viscoelasticity, preconditioning, and morphology of the tendon's collagen fibers. Model/data comparisons showed good agreement and good predictive power, suggesting that preconditioning can be integrated into comprehensive material characterization of tendons.