The spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) is a genetic model of primary hypertension with an etiology that includes sympathetic overdrive. To elucidate the neurogenic mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of this model, we analyzed the dynamic baroreflex response to spontaneous fluctuations in arterial pressure in conscious SHRs, as well as in the Wistar-Kyoto (WKY), the Dahl salt-sensitive, the Dahl salt-resistant, and the Sprague-Dawley rat. Observations revealed the existence of long intermittent periods (lasting up to several minutes) of engagement and disengagement of baroreflex control of heart rate. Analysis of these intermittent periods revealed a predictive relationship between increased mean arterial pressure and progressive baroreflex disengagement that was present in the SHR and WKY strains but absent in others. This relationship yielded the hypothesis that a lower proportion of engagement versus disengagement of the baroreflex in SHR compared with WKY contributes to the hypertension (or increased blood pressure) in SHR compared with WKY. Results of experiments using sinoaortic baroreceptor denervation were consistent with the hypothesis that dysfunction of the baroreflex contributes to the etiology of hypertension in the SHR. Thus, this study provides experimental evidence for the roles of the baroreflex in long-term arterial pressure regulation and in the etiology of primary hypertension in this animal model.