Avipoxviruses (APVs) are distributed worldwide and cause disease in domestic, pet and wild birds of many species. APVs are transmitted by aerosols and biting insects, particularly mosquitoes and arthropods and are usually named after the bird species from which they were originally isolated. The virus species Fowlpox virus (FWPV) causes disease in poultry and associated mortality is usually low, but in flocks under stress (other diseases, high production) mortality can reach up to 50%. APVs are also major players in viral vaccine vector development for diseases in human and veterinary medicine. Abortive infection in mammalian cells (no production of progeny viruses) and their ability to accommodate multiple gene inserts are some of the characteristics that make APVs promising vaccine vectors. Although abortive infection in mammalian cells conceivably represents a major vaccine bio-safety advantage, molecular mechanisms restricting APVs to certain hosts are not yet fully understood. This review summarizes the current knowledge relating to APVs, including classification, morphogenesis, host-virus interactions, diagnostics and disease, and also highlights the use of APVs as recombinant vaccine vectors.