We compared the behavior of 14 inbred mouse strains and an F1 hybrid commonly used in transgenic and knockout production. These strains were 129P3/J, 129S1/SvImJ, 129S6/SvEvTac, 129T2/SvEmsJ, 129X1/SvJ (formerly 129/J, 129/Sv-p+Tyr+Kitl+/J, 129/SvEvTac, 129SvEmsJ, and 129/SvJ, respectively), A/JCrTac, BALB/cAnNTac, C3H/HeNTac, C57BL/6J, C57BL/6NTac, DBA/2NTac, FVB/NTac, NOD/MrkTac, SJL/JCrNTac, and the hybrid B6129S6F1Tac. Performance in three behavioral tests (rotorod, open-field activity-habituation, and contextual and cued fear conditioning) was determined. On the rotorod assay, SJL/JCrNTac mice had the shortest latencies to fall on the first day of testing, and DBA/2NTac mice showed impaired motor learning. Open-field behavior was analyzed using the parameters total distance, center distance, velocity, and vertical activity. 129T2/EvEmsJ and A/JCrTac were least active in the open field, whereas NOD/MrkTac mice were most active. Contrary to earlier studies, we found that all strains habituated to the open field in at least one of these parameters. In contextual and cued fear conditioning, all strains displayed activity suppression. However, FVB/NTac mice reacted less strongly to both context and cue than did most of the other strains. There were no significant behavioral differences between C57BL/6J and C57BL/6NTac, except for higher open-field activity in C57BL/6J female mice. These findings illustrate the importance of the appropriate selection of background strain for transgenic, gene targeting, or drug research.