Although several molecular and genetic manipulations may produce hyperactive animals, hyperactivity alone is insufficient for the animal to qualify as a model of ADHD. Based on a wider range of criteria - behavioral, genetic and neurobiological - the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) obtained from Charles River, Germany (SHR/NCrl) at present constitutes the best validated animal model of ADHD combined subtype (ADHD-C), and the Wistar Kyoto substrain obtained from Harlan, UK (WKY/NHsd) is its most appropriate control. Although other rat strains may behave like WKY/NHsd rats, genetic results indicate significant differences when compared to the WKY/NHsd substrain, making them less suitable controls for the SHR/NCrl. The use of WKY/NCrl, outbred Wistar, Sprague Dawley or other rat strains as controls for SHRs may produce spurious neurobiological differences. Consequently, data may be misinterpreted if insufficient care is taken in the selection of the control group. It appears likely that the use of different control strains may underlie some of the discrepancies in results and interpretations in studies involving the SHR and WKY. Finally, we argue that WKY rats obtained from Charles River, Germany (WKY/NCrl) provide a promising model for the predominantly inattentive subtype of ADHD (ADHD-PI); in this case also the WKY/NHsd substrain should be used as control.