Surrogate animal models must be used for testing antiviral agents against variola (smallpox) virus infections. Once developed, these, compounds can be stockpiled for use in the event of a bioterrorist incident involving either variola or monkeypox virus, or used to treat an occasional serious orthopoxvirus infection, such as disseminated vaccinia complication following exposure to the live virus vaccine. Recently, considerable progress has been made in the discovery of novel antiviral agents found active against orthopoxviruses in vivo. This includes the development of new animal models or refinement of existing ones for compound efficacy testing. Current mouse models employ ectromelia, cowpox and vaccinia (WR and IHD strains) viruses with respiratory (lung) or tail lesion infections commonly studied. Rabbitpox and vaccinia (WR strain) viruses are available for rabbit infections. Monkeypox and variola viruses are used for infecting monkeys. This review describes these and other animal models, and covers compounds found active in vivo from 2003 to date. Cidofovir, known to be active against orthopox virus infections prior to 2003, has been studied extensively over recent years. New compounds showing promise are orally active inhibitors of orthopoxvirus infections that include ether lipid prodrugs of cidofovir and (S)-HPMPA, ST-246, N-methanocarbathymidine (N-MCT) and SRI 21950 (a 4'-thio derivative of iododeoxyuridine). Another compound with high activity but requiring parenteral administration is HPMPO-DAPy. Further development of these compounds is warranted.