This study investigated the role of the hippocampus in both unconditioned and conditioned defensive behaviors by examining the effects of pretraining ibotenic acid lesions to the dorsal and ventral hippocampus in male Long–Evans hooded rats exposed to three types of threat stimuli: cat-odor, a live cat and footshock. Defensive behaviors were assessed during exposure to cat-odor and a live cat, and immediately following the presentation of footshock. Conditioned defensive behaviors were also assessed in each context 24 h after initial threat exposure. During both unconditioned and conditioned trials, dorsal hippocampal lesions failed to significantly alter any behavioral measure in each test of defense. In contrast, ventral hippocampal lesions significantly reduced unconditioned defensive behaviors during exposure to cat-odor without producing any observable effects during cat exposure. Furthermore, ventral lesions significantly attenuated conditioned defensive behaviors following the administration of footshock and during re-exposure to each context. These results suggest a specific role for the ventral, not dorsal, hippocampus in modulating anxiety-like behaviors in certain animal models of defense.