The carotid body (CB) is an arterial chemoreceptor organ located in the carotid bifurcation and has a well-recognized role in cardiorespiratory regulation. The CB contains neurosecretory sensory cells (glomus cells), which release transmitters in response to hypoxia, hypercapnia, and acidemia to activate afferent sensory fibers terminating in the respiratory and autonomic brainstem centers. Knowledge of the physiology of the CB has progressed enormously in recent years. Herein we review advances concerning the organization and function of the cellular elements of the CB, with emphasis on the molecular mechanisms of acute oxygen sensing by glomus cells. We introduce the modern view of the CB as a multimodal integrated metabolic sensor and describe the properties of the CB stem cell niche, which support CB growth during acclimatization to chronic hypoxia. Finally, we discuss the increasing medical relevance of CB dysfunction and its potential impact on the mechanisms of disease.