Animals often show an innate preference for novelty. This preference facilitates spontaneous exploration tasks of novelty discrimination (recognition memory). In response to limitations with standard spontaneous object recognition procedures for rodents, a new task ("bow-tie maze") was devised. This task combines features of delayed nonmatching-to-sample with spontaneous exploration. The present study explored aspects of object recognition in the bow-tie maze not amenable to standard procedures. Two rat strains (Lister Hooded, Dark Agouti) displayed very reliable object recognition in both the light and dark, with the Lister Hooded strain showing superior performance (Experiment 1). These findings reveal the potential contribution of tactile and odor cues in object recognition. As the bow-tie maze task permits multiple trials within a session, it was possible to derive forgetting curves both within-session and between-sessions (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2, rats with hippocampal or fornix lesions performed at normal levels on the basic version of the recognition task, contrasting with the marked deficits previously seen after perirhinal cortex lesions. Next, the training protocol was adapted (Experiment 3), and this modified version was used successfully with mice (Experiment 4). The overall findings demonstrate the efficacy of this new behavioral task and advance our understanding of object recognition.