Type II collagen- and adjuvant-induced arthritis in outbred Wistar rats were compared using parameters that measured the inflammatory response, cellular and humoral immunity, blood protein changes, drug metabolism and histopathological and bony changes of the inflamed paws. There was a lesser incidence (40-70%) and severity of collagen disease than the adjuvant model (incidence approximately 100%). The use of MDP increased the incidence and severity of collagen arthritis. The acute phase protein response (plasma fibrinogen) was similar in both models during the peak of inflammatory response. Drug metabolism was inhibited in both type II collagen boosted with MDP or M. butyricum sensitized rats with arthritis; however, arthritic rats sensitized with collagen alone produced no inhibition. Only collagen arthritic rats produced type II collagen antibody and exhibited delayed hypersensitivity to type II collagen. Bony changes as assessed by radiographic evaluation were more severe in adjuvant arthritic rats than in the collagen arthritic model; histopathological findings from these animals confirmed this observation. The primary lesions in both models were periosteal reaction of the bone and ankylosis. Several classes of antiarthritic drugs were compared in both models using paw edema measurements and bony changes by radiographic evaluation. Drugs with inhibitory activity in both models were indomethacin, methylprednisolone, D-penicillamine and gold sodium thiomalate. Levamisole, chloroquine and auranofin were inactive in both models.