Bedload, the transport of sediment remaining in contact with the stream bed, has mainly been studied from the perspective of the correlation between fluid driving forces and the responding sediment flux. Yet grain–grain interactions are important and bedload should also be considered as a granular phenomenon. We review progress made recently in the study of granular flows, especially on segregation and rheology, that better illuminates the nature of bedload. Granular flows may exhibit gas-like or fluid-like flow, or quasi-solid deformation. All three conditions might be duplicated in bedload. Understanding of intense bedload transport occurring continuously in a layer several grains deep – typical of sand beds – might greatly benefit from results in granular physics, as illustrated by grain-inspired bedload results. However, processes restricted to the surface of the bed, when particles move intermittently and the bed becomes structured, while characteristic in gravel-bed channels, are not well addressed in granular physics. Mutual study of these phenomena may benefit both physics and fluvial geomorphology. We intend, therefore, to contribute to an enhanced dialogue between granular physics and bedload science communities. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.