The Ts65Dn mouse carries a partial trisomy for mouse chromosome 16 in a region that has high homology to the Down syndrome (DS) region of human chromosome 21 and is, thus, a potential animal model of DS. The focus of the present study was to begin to characterize the behavioral phenotype of this mouse to assess its usefulness as a model of aspects of the DS phenotype. The behavior of Ts65Dn and littermate control mice was assessed in the elevated plus maze, lighted and dark open field, and a step-down passive avoidance task. The behavior of Ts65Dn mice in these tests differed considerably from the nontrisomic controls. In the elevated plus maze, Ts65Dn had more total arm visits than controls, showed a higher percentage of arm visits to the open arms than control mice, and showed no preference for the closed arms. Ts65Dn mice were more active in both open-field situations, regardless of light condition, and ventured into the center of the arena more than controls. Lighting in the open field had moderate effects on the activity of the Ts65Dn mice, but control mice were, as expected, much more active in the dark than the light. The trisomic mice learned and retained the step-down passive avoidance task in the same number of trials as the controls. Overall, these data indicate that Ts65Dn mice are more active than control mice in two testing situations. Most striking is the finding that the Ts65Dn mice were much less responsive to variations in environmental cues to which normal mice are quite sensitive. These data not only begin to characterize systematically the Ts65Dn phenotype, but also raise several interesting issues about the sources of the aberrant behaviors observed in these mice.