Currently, the only approved treatment for ischaemic stroke is tissue plasminogen activator, a clot-buster. This treatment can have dangerous consequences if not given within the first 4 h after stroke. Our group and others have shown progesterone to be beneficial in preclinical studies of stroke, but a progesterone dose-response and time-window study is lacking. We tested male Sprague-Dawley rats (12 months old) with permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion or sham operations on multiple measures of sensory, motor and cognitive performance. For the dose-response study, animals received intraperitoneal injections of progesterone (8, 16 or 32 mg/kg) at 1 h post-occlusion, and subcutaneous injections at 6 h and then once every 24 h for 7 days. For the time-window study, the optimal dose of progesterone was given starting at 3, 6 or 24 h post-stroke. Behavioural recovery was evaluated at repeated intervals. Rats were killed at 22 days post-stroke and brains extracted for evaluation of infarct volume. Both 8 and 16 mg/kg doses of progesterone produced attenuation of infarct volume compared with the placebo, and improved functional outcomes up to 3 weeks after stroke on locomotor activity, grip strength, sensory neglect, gait impairment, motor coordination and spatial navigation tests. In the time-window study, the progesterone group exhibited substantial neuroprotection as late as 6 h after stroke onset. Compared with placebo, progesterone showed a significant reduction in infarct size with 3- and 6-h delays. Moderate doses (8 and 16 mg/kg) of progesterone reduced infarct size and improved functional deficits in our clinically relevant model of stroke. The 8 mg/kg dose was optimal in improving motor, sensory and memory function, and this effect was observed over a large therapeutic time window. Progesterone shows promise as a potential therapeutic agent and should be examined for safety and efficacy in a clinical trial for ischaemic stroke.