Lewis and Fischer inbred rat strains differ in behavioral and biochemical responses to psychoactive drugs: Lewis rats show greater behavioral responses to psychoactive drugs than Fischer rats and they fail to show biochemical adaptations in the mesolimbic dopamine system after chronic drug exposure, in contrast to Fischer and outbred rats. This suggests that Fischer and Lewis rats may differ in the initial, reinforcing effects of psychoactive drugs, but not in responses seen after the exposure that occurs with maintenance of drug-reinforced behavior. Thus, the present study tested whether these strains differ in acquisition or maintenance of intravenous cocaine self-administration. Acquisition of cocaine self-administration was examined in separate groups that were allowed 15 days to acquire the operant at one of three cocaine doses (0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 mg/kg/infusion). Compared to Fischer rats, Lewis rats acquired cocaine self-administration after fewer training trials and at lower doses. After maintenance, both strains showed characteristic extinction responding with saline substitution and dose-related responding to cocaine, although Fischer rats tended to show higher response rates. Finally, cocaine plasma levels, obtained after an intravenous cocaine infusion (1.0 mg/kg), showed no strain differences suggesting that the strain difference in acquisition was not due to cocaine pharmacokinetics. These strain differences in acquisition of cocaine self-administration may be related to reported strain differences in the mesolimbic dopamine system. Further, because acquisition of drug self-administration is an animal model of vulnerability to drug addiction, these inbred strains may be useful to study factors underlying such vulnerability.