ABSTRACT Tissue engineering and its clinical application, regenerative medicine, are instructing multiple approaches to aid in replacing bone loss after defects caused by trauma or cancer. In such cases, bone formation can be guided by engineered biodegradable and nonbiodegradable scaffolds with clearly defined architectural and mechanical properties informed by evidence-based research. With the ever-increasing expansion of bone tissue engineering and the pioneering research conducted to date, preclinical models are becoming a necessity to allow the engineered products to be translated to the clinic. In addition to creating smart bone scaffolds to mitigate bone loss, the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is exploring methods to treat primary and secondary bone malignancies by creating models that mimic the clinical disease manifestation. This Review gives an overview of the preclinical testing in animal models used to evaluate bone regeneration concepts. Immunosuppressed rodent models have shown to be successful in mimicking bone malignancy via the implantation of human-derived cancer cells, whereas large animal models, including pigs, sheep and goats, are being used to provide an insight into bone formation and the effectiveness of scaffolds in induced tibial or femoral defects, providing clinically relevant similarity to human cases. Despite the recent progress, the successful translation of bone regeneration concepts from the bench to the bedside is rooted in the efforts of different research groups to standardise and validate the preclinical models for bone tissue engineering approaches.