Pioneering work in the 1990s first linked a novel microaerobic bacterium, Helicobacter hepaticus, with chronic active hepatitis and inflammatory bowel disease in several murine models. Targeted H. hepaticus infection experiments subsequently demonstrated its ability to induce colitis, colorectal cancer, and extraintestinal diseases in a number of mouse strains with defects in immune function and/or regulation. H. hepaticus is now widely utilized as a model system to dissect how intestinal microbiota interact with the host to produce both inflammatory and tolerogenic responses. This model has been used to make important advances in understanding factors that regulate both acquired and innate immune response within the intestine. Further, it has been an effective tool to help define the function of regulatory T cells, including their ability to directly inhibit the innate inflammatory response to gut microbiota. The complete genomic sequence of H. hepaticus has advanced the identification of several virulence factors and aided in the elucidation of H. hepaticus pathogenesis. Delineating targets of H. hepaticus virulence factors could facilitate novel approaches to treating microbially induced lower bowel inflammatory diseases.