The increasing availability of rodent models of human cardiovascular disease has led to a need to translate noninvasive imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) from the clinic to the animal laboratory. The aim of this study was to develop phantoms simulating the short-axis view of left ventricular motion of rats and mice, thus reducing the need for live animals in the development of MRI. Cylindrical phantoms were moulded from polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) Cryogel and attached via stiff water-filled tubing to a gear pump. Pulsatile distension of the phantoms was effected by suitable programming of the pump. Cine MRI scanning was carried out at 7 T and compared with in vivo rodent cardiac imaging. Suitable pulsatile performance was achieved with phantoms for which the PVA material had been subjected to two freeze-thaw cycles, resulting in T1 and T2 relaxation time constants of 1656+/-124 ms and 55+/-10 ms, respectively. For the rat phantom operating at 240 beats per min (bpm), the dynamic range of the outer diameter was from 10.3 to 12.4 mm with the wall thickness varying between 1.9 and 1.2 mm. Corresponding figures for the mouse phantom at 480 bpm were outer diameter range from 5.4 to 6.4 mm and wall thickness from 1.5 to 1.2 mm. Dynamic cardiac phantoms simulating rodent left ventricular motion in the short-axis view were successfully developed and compared with in vivo imaging. The phantoms can be used for future development work with reduced need of live animals.