One of the characteristic manifestations of several neurodegenerative diseases is the progressive decline in cognitive ability. In order to determine the suitability of six mouse strains (129S2/Sv, BALB/c, C3H/He, C57BL/6j, CBA/Ca and DBA/2) as transgenic background strains, we investigated the performance on a variety of tasks designed to identify subtle changes in cognition. In addition, a test of exploratory behaviour was used to probe the level of underlying anxiety in these mouse strains, as anxiety can be a confounding factor on behavioural performance generally. The C3H/He mice exhibited the least anxiogenic behavioural profile spending most time on the open arms of the maze, in contrast to the 129S2/Sv mice which spent the least amount of time in this location and were the quickest to move into a closed arm. The C3H/He mouse strain failed to acquire a visual discrimination task and failed to demonstrate learning on a water maze spatial learning task, in contrast to the CBA/Ca, DBA/2 and C57BL/6j strains which demonstrated a degree of learning in both tasks. No significant strain differences were identified on the object recognition task. These data, taken together, suggest that care must be taken when choosing cognitive tasks to be used with particular mouse strains and that task sensitivity must be considered as a critical element to research protocols with regard to these mouse strains.