Objectives We assessed the effects of erythropoietin (EPO) treatment in a rat model of post-myocardial infarction (MI) heart failure. Background Erythropoietin, traditionally known as a hematopoietic hormone, has been linked to neovascularization. Whereas administration of EPO acutely after MI reduces infarct size and improves cardiac function, its role in the failing heart is unknown. Methods Rats underwent coronary ligation or sham surgery. Rats with MI were randomly assigned to: untreated (MI), a single bolus of EPO immediately after MI induction (MI-EPO-early), EPO treatment immediately after MI and once every three weeks (MI-EPO-early+late), and EPO treatment starting three weeks after induction of MI, once every three weeks (MI-EPO-late). After nine weeks, hemodynamics, infarct size, myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms, myocyte hypertrophy, and capillary density were measured. Results Erythropoietin treatment started immediately after MI (MI-EPO-early and MI-EPO-early+late) resulted in a 23% to 30% reduction in infarct size (p < 0.01) and, accordingly, hemodynamic improvement. Erythropoietin treatment, started three weeks after MI (MI-EPO-late), did not affect infarct size, but resulted in an improved cardiac performance, reflected by a 34% reduction in left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (p < 0.01), and 46% decrease in atrial natriuretic peptide levels (p < 0.05). The improved cardiac function was accompanied by an increased capillary density (p < 0.01), an increased capillary-to-myocyte ratio (p < 0.05), and a partial reversal of beta-MHC (p < 0.05) in all treated groups. Conclusions In addition to its effect on infarct size reduction, EPO treatment improves cardiac function in a rat model of post-MI heart failure. This observation may be explained by neovascularization, associated with an increased alpha-MHC expression.