The spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) is the most widely used animal model of essential hypertension and associated metabolic disturbances. Multiple quantitative trait loci associated with hemodynamic and metabolic parameters have been mapped in the SHR. Recently, it has become possible to identify some of the specific quantitative trait gene (QTG) variants that underlie quantitative trait loci linked to complex cardiovascular and metabolic traits in SHR related strains. Recombinant inbred strains derived from SHR and Brown Norway progenitors, together with SHR congenic and transgenic strains, have proven useful for establishing the identity of several QTGs in SHR models. It is anticipated that the combined use of linkage analyses and gene expression profiles, together with the recently available genome sequences of both the SHR and Brown Norway strains and new methods for manipulating the rat genome, will soon accelerate progress in identifying QTGs for complex traits in SHR-related strains.