θ-defensins constitute a family of macrocyclic peptides expressed exclusively in Old World monkeys. The peptides are pleiotropic effectors of innate immunity, possessing broad spectrum antimicrobial activities and immunoregulatory properties. Here we report that rhesus θ-defensin 1 (RTD-1) is highly effective in arresting and reversing joint disease in a rodent model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Parenteral RTD-1 treatment of DA/OlaHsd rats with established pristane-induced arthritis (PIA) rapidly suppressed joint disease progression, restored limb mobility, and preserved normal joint architecture. RTD-1 significantly reduced joint IL-1β levels compared with controls. RTD-1 dose-dependently inhibited fibroblast-like synoviocyte (FLS) invasiveness and FLS IL-6 production. Consistent with the inhibition of FLS invasiveness, RTD-1 was a potent inhibitor of arthritogenic proteases including ADAMs 17 and 10 which activate TNFα, and inhibited matrix metalloproteases, and cathepsin K. RTD-1 was non-toxic, non-immunogenic, and effective when administered as infrequently as once every five days. Thus θ-defensins, which are absent in humans, have potential as retroevolutionary biologics for the treatment of RA.