Positional cloning of susceptibility genes in complex diseases like rheumatoid arthritis in humans is hampered by aspects like genetic heterogeneity and environmental variations, while genetic studies in animal models contain several advantages. With animal models, the environment can be controlled, the genetic complexity of the disease is minimized and the disease onset can be predicted, which simplify diagnosis and characterization. We use pristane-induced arthritis in rats to investigate the inheritance of arthritis. Until now, we have identified 15 loci that significantly predispose rats to the development of arthritis. One of these arthritis loci has been isolated and confirmed to be caused by a polymorphism in the Ncf1 gene. In this review, we outline the methods used to identify Ncf1 as one single susceptibility gene in a complex puzzle of inherited factors that render susceptibility to a complex autoimmune disorder like arthritis.