COPD is a major cause of global mortality and morbidity but current treatments are poorly effective. This is because the underlying mechanisms that drive the development and progression of COPD are incompletely understood. Animal models of disease provide a valuable, ethically and economically viable experimental platform to examine these mechanisms and identify biomarkers that may be therapeutic targets that would facilitate the development of improved standard of care. Here, we review the different established animal models of COPD and the various aspects of disease pathophysiology that have been successfully recapitulated in these models including chronic lung inflammation, airway remodelling, emphysema and impaired lung function. Furthermore, some of the mechanistic features, and thus biomarkers and therapeutic targets of COPD identified in animal models are outlined. Some of the existing therapies that suppress some disease symptoms that were identified in animal models and are progressing towards therapeutic development have been outlined. Further studies of representative animal models of human COPD have the strong potential to identify new and effective therapeutic approaches for COPD.