We have developed an experimental model in which pins, inserted into the seventh and ninth caudal vertebrae of 13-week-old rats, are used to load the eighth caudal vertebra in compression. Four groups of animals were used in the study: unpinned; animals with pins inserted, but non-loaded; animals loaded once, for 360 cycles at 0.5 Hz; and animals subjected to daily loading for 36 cycles at 0.5 Hz. Pins were immobilised by clamps when not undergoing loading. The animals were killed 9 days after pinning, and the eighth caudal vertebra was subjected to histomorphometric and histodynamic analysis. We found that vertebrae subjected to 36 daily loading cycles showed a 30-fold increase in bone formation compared to non-loaded controls. A single loading regime of 360 cycles was sufficient to increase bone formation 4-fold. Bone formation on trabecular surfaces was of lamellar rather than woven bone and was accompanied by a decrease in indices of bone resorption. Loaded vertebrae also showed substantial periosteal woven bone formation, although a minor degree of periosteal woven bone formation was also seen in one non-loaded pinned control vertebra. Our results suggest that in the rat, as in avian species, short loading regimes are capable of inducing bone formation. The model may assist an analysis of the interactions between bone resorption, bone formation and mechanical stimuli, and may enable identification of the molecular signals that mediate induction of lamellar bone formation on trabecular surfaces.