Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV) are recently-emerged, closely related and highly pathogenic paramyxoviruses. We have analysed here the pathogenesis of the acute HeV infection using the new animal model, golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is highly susceptible to HeV infection. HeV-specific RNA and viral antigens were found in multiple organs and virus was isolated from different tissues. Dual pathogenic mechanism was observed: parenchymal infection in various organs, including the brain, with vasculitis and multinucleated syncytia in many blood vessels. Furthermore, monoclonal antibodies specific for the NiV fusion protein neutralized HeV in vitro and efficiently protected hamsters from HeV if given before infection. These results reveal the similarities between HeV and NiV pathogenesis, particularly in affecting both respiratory and neuronal system. They demonstrate that hamster presents a convenient novel animal model to study HeV infection, opening new perspectives to evaluate vaccine and therapeutic approaches against this emergent infectious disease.