The production of cartilage (chondrogenic patterning) in the limb is one of the best-studied examples of the emergence of form in developmental biology. At the core of the theoretical study is an effort to understand the mechanism that establishes the characteristic distribution of cartilage in the embryonic limb, which defines the future sites and shapes of bones that will be present in the mature limb. This review article gives an overview of the history and current state of a rich literature of mathematical and computational models that seek to contribute to this problem. We describe models for the mechanisms of limb growth and shaping via interaction with various chemical fields, as well as models addressing the intrinsic self-organization capabilities of the embryonic mesenchymal tissue, such as reaction-diffusion and mechanochemical models. We discuss the contributions of these models to the current understanding of chondrogenesis in vertebrate limbs, as well as their relation to the varied conceptual models that have been proposed by experimentalists. Birth Defects Research (Part C) 96:176–192, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.