Emergence of genetically and antigenically diverse strains of influenza to which the human population has no or limited immunity necessitates continuous risk assessments to determine the likelihood of these viruses acquiring adaptations that facilitate sustained human-to-human transmission. As the North American swine H1 virus population has diversified over the last century by means of both antigenic drift and shift, in vivo assessments to study multifactorial traits like mammalian pathogenicity and transmissibility of these emerging influenza viruses are critical. In this review, we examine genetic, molecular, and pathogenicity and transmissibility data from a panel of contemporary North American H1 subtype swine-origin viruses isolated from humans, as compared to H1N1 seasonal and pandemic viruses, including the reconstructed 1918 virus. We present side-by-side analyses of experiments performed in the mouse and ferret models using consistent experimental protocols to facilitate enhanced interpretation of in vivo data. Contextualizing these analyses in a broader context permits a greater appreciation of the role that in vivo risk assessment experiments play in pandemic preparedness. Collectively, we find that despite strain-specific heterogeneity among swine-origin H1 viruses, contemporary swine viruses isolated from humans possess many attributes shared by prior pandemic strains, warranting heightened surveillance and evaluation of these zoonotic viruses.