The lack of a single anatomical or functional definition of 'prefrontal cortex' has led to different and, in some respects, controversial views on the existence of a prefrontal cortex in non-primate mammals, in particular in rats. Until the classic paper by Rose and Woolsey [Res. Publ. Assoc. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 27 (1948) 210], the general idea was that a prefrontal cortex is unique to primate species. Rose and Woolsey's 'prefrontal cortex' definition was based upon a single anatomical criterion, i.e. the cortical projection area of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus. Single criteria, however, do not appear to be sufficient for defining the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, other anatomical and functional characteristics are currently used to identify the prefrontal cortex in different species. Yet, recently the debate about the nature of the prefrontal cortex in non-primate species has been resumed. In the present paper we will compare the structural and functional characteristics of the prefrontal cortex of nonhuman primates and rats. We will argue that rats have a functionally divided prefrontal cortex that includes not only features of the medial and orbital areas in primates, but also some features of the primate dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.