Abstract In the present study for the first time an alternative definitive host model has been established for the complete development of Echinococcus granulosus in Meriones unguiculatus (Mongolian gerbils) up to shelled eggs production, as happened in the natural host. Animals treated with methylprednisolone acetate were orally inoculated with ∼3000 protoscoleces and the development of parasites in the small intestine observed up to 46 days post-infection (p.i.). The cestodes survive, strobilate, mature sexually and complete their development in the intestine up to production of shelled embryonated eggs containing fully formed six-hooked oncospheres, similarly to the natural canid host (stage 7 by Smyth). Shelled eggs are first observed in the rodent/ E. granulosus model at 44 days p.i. Somatic growth in gerbils appears to follow a similar trend to dogs, length increasing to over 3 mm at 44 days p.i., while, compared to the natural host, organogenesis is observed only to progress at a slower rate in the early developmental stages. Parasite burden was found to vary among non-inbred animals and developmental stages of worms recovered from the same animal differed widely. Worm localisation follows the pattern observed in the natural host, the parasites appearing for the most part distributed in the proximal third of the small intestine. The development of alternative definitive hosts may facilitate research in this field, overcoming legislative impediments that restrict the use of dogs for experimental purposes.