1. Our aim was to evaluate the effects of an aortocaval fistula (1 mm) on cardiorenal haemodynamics, cardiac hypertrophy and neurohumoral factors in spontaneously hypertensive rats and to compare the results with those observed in Wistar rats at 2 weeks after fistulae placement. Sham-operated spontaneously hypertensive rats and Wistar rats served as controls. 2. Heart weight was significantly increased in spontaneously hypertensive rats (34%) and in Wistar rats (43%) at 2 weeks after fistula creation. Left ventricular systolic pressure and d p /d t max . were significantly decreased (both P <0.01) in spontaneously hypertensive rats with fistulae which had higher left ventricular end-diastolic pressure than Wistar rats with fistulae ( P <0.01). Signs of circulatory congestion (ascites, tachypnoea, prostration) were observed only in the overloaded spontaneously hypertensive rats (45%). Cardiac index was comparably increased in both fistulae groups due to an increase in stroke index, since heart rate was not increased. 3. Fistulae placement decreased renal blood flow and kidney weight, and increased blood urea nitrogen to a greater degree in spontaneously hypertensive rats (all P <0.05); serum creatinine levels were unaltered. Plasma noradrenaline concentration was increased in spontaneously hypertensive rats with fistulae ( P <0.05), whereas plasma renin activity was not changed. 4. Thus, spontaneously hypertensive rats with fistulae developed overt haemodynamic signs of high-output heart failure with frequent ascites and dyspnoea, whereas most of these findings were milder or absent in Wistar rats. This model provides an opportunity to evaluate the pathophysiological and pharmacological responses in high-output heart failure.