The distribution, pharmacology and function of the arginine vasopressin (Avp) 1b receptor subtype (Avpr1b) has proved more challenging to investigate compared to other members of the Avp receptor family. Avp is increasingly recognised as an important modulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, an action mediated by the Avpr1b present on anterior pituitary corticotrophs. The Avpr1b is also expressed in some peripheral tissues including pancreas and adrenal, and in the hippocampus (HIP), paraventricular nucleus and olfactory bulb of the rodent brain where its function is unknown. The central distribution of Avpr1bs is far more restricted than that of the Avpr1a, the main Avp receptor subtype found in the brain. Whether Avpr1b expression in rodent tissues is dependent on differences in the length of microsatellite dinucleotide repeats present in the 5' promoter region of the Avpr1b gene remains to be determined. One difficulty of functional studies on the Avpr1b, especially its involvement in the HPA axis response to stress, which prompted the generation of Avpr1b knockout (KO) mouse models, was the shortage of commercially available Avpr1b ligands, particularly antagonists. Research on mice lacking functional Avpr1bs has highlighted behavioural deficits in social memory and aggression. The Avpr1b KO also appears to be an excellent model to study the contribution of the Avpr1b in the HPA axis response to acute and perhaps some chronic (repeated) stressors where corticotrophin-releasing hormone and other genes involved in the HPA axis response to stress do not appear to compensate for the loss of the Avpr1b.