Live vaccines against fowlpox virus, which causes moderate pathology in poultry and is the type species of the Avipoxvirus genus, were developed in the 1920s. Development of recombinant fowlpox virus vector vaccines began in the 1980s, for use not only in poultry, but also in mammals including humans. In common with other avipoxviruses, such as canarypox virus, fowlpox virus enters mammalian cells and expresses proteins, but replicates abortively. The use of fowlpox virus as a safe vehicle for expression of foreign antigens and host immunomodulators, is being evaluated in numerous clinical trials of vaccines against cancer, malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, notably in heterologous prime-boost regimens. In this article, technical approaches to, and issues surrounding, the use of fowlpox virus as a recombinant vaccine vector in poultry and mammals are reviewed.