A consomic rat strain is one in which an entire chromosome is introgressed into the isogenic background of another inbred strain using marker assisted selection. The development and initial physiologic screening of two inbred consomic rat panels on two genetic backgrounds (44 strains) is well underway. The primary uses of consomic strains are: (1) to assign traits and quantitative trait loci (QTL) to chromosomes by surveying the panel of strains with substituted chromosomes; (2) to rapidly develop congenic strains over a narrow region using several approaches described in this review and perform F2 linkage studies to positionally locate QTL in a fixed genetic background. In addition, consomic strains overcome many of the problems encountered with segregating crosses where, even if linkage is found, each individual in the cross is genetically unique and the combination of genes cannot be reproduced or studied in detail. Consomic strains provide greater statistical power to detect linkage than traditional F2 crosses because of their fixed genetic backgrounds, and can produce sufficient numbers of genetically identical rats to validate the relationship between a trait and a particular chromosome. These strains allow studies to be performed in a replicative or longitudinal manner to elucidate in greater detail the sequential changes responsible for the observed phenotypes of these animals, and they enable one to assess the impact of a causal gene region in a genome by allowing comparisons of the effect of replacement of a specific chromosome upon a disease susceptible or resistant genomic background. Consomics can be used to quickly develop multiple chromosome substitution models to investigate gene-gene interactions of complex traits or diseases. Finally, they often provide the best available inbred control strain for particular physiological comparisons with the inbred parental strains. Consomic rat strains are proving to be a unique scientific resource that greatly extends our understanding of genes and complex normal and pathological function.