The SAMP1/YitFc mouse strain represents a model of Crohn's disease (CD)-like ileitis that is ideal for investigating the pathogenesis of chronic intestinal inflammation. Different from the vast majority of animal models of colitis, the ileal-specific phenotype characteristic of SAMP1/YitFc mice occurs spontaneously, without genetic, chemical, or immunological manipulation. In addition, SAMP1/YitFc mice possess remarkable similarities to the human condition with regard to disease location, histologic features, incidence of extraintestinal manifestations, and response to conventional therapies. SAMP1/YitFc mice also display a well-defined time course of a predisease state and phases of acute and chronic ileitis. As such, the SAMP1/YitFc model is particularly suitable for elucidating pathways that precede the clinical phenotype that may lead to preventive, and therefore more efficacious, intervention with the natural course of disease, or alternatively, for the development of therapeutic strategies directed against chronic, established ileitis. In this review we summarize important contributions made by our group and others that uncover potential mechanisms in the pathogenesis of CD using this unique murine model of chronic intestinal inflammation.