Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes chronic liver disease and affects an estimated 3% of the world's population. Options for the prevention or therapy of HCV infection are limited; there is no vaccine and the nonspecific, interferon-based treatments now in use are frequently ineffective and have significant side effects. A small-animal model for HCV infection would significantly expedite antiviral compound development and preclinical testing, as well as open new avenues to decipher the mechanisms that underlie viral pathogenesis. The natural species tropism of HCV is, however, limited to humans and chimpanzees. Here, we discuss the prospects of developing a mouse model for HCV infection, taking into consideration recent results on HCV entry and replication, and new prospects in xenotransplantation biology. We highlight three independent, but possibly complementary, approaches towards overcoming current species barriers and generating a small-animal model for HCV pathogenesis.