The 2-vessel-occlusion + hypotension (2VO + H) model of transient global cerebral ischemia results in neurodegeneration within the CA1 field of the hippocampus, but previous research has failed to demonstrate robust or reliable learning/memory deficits in rats subjected to this treatment. In the present study, sensitive behavioral protocols were developed in an effort to characterize the cognitive impairments following 2VO + H more precisely. Adult rats were exposed to 10 min of bilateral carotid occlusion with simultaneous hypotension. Following recovery, 2VO + H and control rats were subjected to a series of behavioral tests (locomotor activity, sensorimotor battery, water maze [cued, place, learning set], object recognition, and radial arm maze) over an extended recovery period followed by an assessment of neuronal loss in the dorsal hippocampus. The 2VO + H treatment was associated with long-lasting spatial learning deficits in the absence of other behavioral impairments and with neurodegeneration in dorsal hippocampal CA1. Water maze protocols that placed higher memory demands upon the rats (relatively "hard" vs. "easy") were more sensitive for detecting ischemia-induced deficits. We have shown that the use of appropriate behavioral tests (e.g., a relatively difficult place learning task) allowed for the observation of robust spatial learning deficits in a model previously shown to induce relatively subtle behavioral effects. Thus, the 2VO + H model induces both hippocampal neuronal loss and long-term learning deficits in rats, providing a potentially useful model for evaluating therapeutic efficacy.