Our understanding of the details of mammalian meiotic recombination has recently advanced significantly. Sperm typing technologies, linkage studies, and computational inferences from population genetic data have together provided information in unprecedented detail about the location and activity of the sites of crossing-over in mice and humans. The results show that the vast majority of meiotic recombination events are localized to narrow DNA regions (hot spots) that constitute only a small fraction of the genome. The data also suggest that the molecular basis of hot spot activity is unlikely to be strictly determined by specific DNA sequence motifs in cis. Further molecular studies are needed to understand how hot spots originate, function and evolve.