Summary. The blood coagulation system forms fibrin to limit blood loss from sites of injury, but also contributes to occlusive diseases such as deep vein thrombosis, myocardial infarction, and stroke. In the current model of a coagulation balance, normal hemostasis and thrombosis represent two sides of the same coin; however, data from coagulation factor XI-deficient animal models have challenged this dogma. Gene targeting of factor XI, a serine protease of the intrinsic pathway of coagulation, severely impairs arterial thrombus formation but is not associated with excessive bleeding. Mechanistically, factor XI may be activated by factor XII following contact activation or by thrombin in a feedback activation loop. This review focuses on the role of factor XI, and its deficiency states as novel target for prevention of thrombosis with low bleeding risk in animal models.