Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a neovascularizing disease of the retina affecting premature infants. Much of our current knowledge regarding development of both normal and abnormal blood vessels in the retina has been obtained from animal models of retinopathy. The retina is an excellent organ for studying angiogenesis, since the progress of blood vessel growth can be monitored by angiography or fundoscopy. Also, the entire retinal vasculature can be viewed in flat-mounted retinal preparations. Although these animal models were previously used to study the gross aspects of vasculogenesis and angiogenesis, they are increasingly being used to identify the genes and molecular mechanisms involved in these processes. Knowledge gained from these studies can be applied to non-ocular angiogenic conditions. This paper provides historical perspective on the development and use of animal models of retinal neovascular disease since the 1950's and on the key studies that have led to our current understanding about the pathogenesis these conditions.