In the 1700's a strange new disease affecting sheep was recognized in Europe. The disease later became known as “Scrapie” and was the first of a family of similar diseases affecting a number of species that are now known as the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). The appearance of a new disease in humans linked to the consumption of meat products from infected cattle has stimulated widespread public concern and scientific interest in the prion protein and related diseases. Nearly 300 years after the first report, these diseases still merit the descriptor “strange”. This family of diseases is characterized by a unique profile of histological changes, can be transmitted as inherited or acquired diseases, as well as apparent sporadic spontaneous generation of the disease. These diseases are believed by many, to be caused by a unique protein only infectious agent. The “prion protein” (PrPC), a term first coined by Stanley Prusiner in 1982 is crucial to the development of these diseases, apparently by acting as a substrate for an abnormal disease associated form. However, aside from being critical to the pathogenesis of the disease, the function of PrPC, which is expressed in all mammals, has defied definitive description. Several roles have been proposed on the basis of in vitro studies, however, thus far, in vivo confirmation has not been forthcoming. The biological features of PrPC also seem to be unusual. Numerous mouse models have been generated in an attempt to understand the pathogenesis of these diseases. This review summarizes the current state of histological features, the etiologic agent, the normal metabolism and the function of the prion protein, as well as the limitations of the mouse models.