The wide spectrum of disruptions that characterizes major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD) highlights the difficulties researchers are posed with as they try to mimic these disorders in the laboratory. Nonetheless, numerous attempts have been made to create rodent models of mood disorders or at least models of the symptoms of MDD and BD. Present antidepressants are all descendants of the serendipitous findings in the 1950s that the monoamine oxidase inhibitor iproniazid and the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine were effective antidepressants. Thus, the need for improved animal models to provide insights into the neuropathology underlying the disease is critical. Such information is in turn crucial for identifying new antidepressants and mood stabilisers. Currently, there is a shift away from traditional animal models to more focused research dealing with an endophenotype-style approach, genetic models, and incorporation of new findings from human neuroimaging and genetic studies. Such approaches are opening up more tractable avenues for understanding the neurobiological and genetic bases of these disorders. Further, such models promise to yield better translational animal models and hence more fruitful therapeutic targets. This overview focuses on such animal models and tests and how they can be used to assess MDD and BD in rodents.