Due to the biological complexity of the cardiovascular system, the animal model is an urgent pre-clinical need to advance our knowledge of cardiovascular disease and to explore new drugs to repair the damaged heart. Ideally, a model system should be inexpensive, easily manipulated, reproducible, a biological representative of human disease, and ethically sound. Although a larger animal model is more expensive and difficult to manipulate, its genetic, structural, functional, and even disease similarities to humans make it an ideal model to first consider. This review presents the commonly-used large animals—dog, sheep, pig, and non-human primates—while the less-used other large animals—cows, horses—are excluded. The review attempts to introduce unique points for each species regarding its biological property, degrees of susceptibility to develop certain types of heart diseases, and methodology of induced conditions. For example, dogs barely develop myocardial infarction, while dilated cardiomyopathy is developed quite often. Based on the similarities of each species to the human, the model selection may first consider non-human primates—pig, sheep, then dog—but it also depends on other factors, for example, purposes, funding, ethics, and policy. We hope this review can serve as a basic outline of large animal models for cardiovascular researchers and clinicians.
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