Cryptorchidism is failure of one or both testes to descend into the scrotum. Primary fault lies in the testis. We provide a unifying cross-species interpretation of testis descent and urge the use of precise terminology. After differentiation, a testis is relocated to the scrotum in three sequential phases: abdominal translocation, holding a testis near the internal inguinal ring as the abdominal cavity expands away, along with slight downward migration; transinguinal migration, moving a cauda epididymidis and testis through the abdominal wall; and inguinoscrotal migration, moving a s.c. cauda epididymidis and testis to the bottom of the scrotum. The gubernaculum enlarges under stimulation of insulin-like peptide 3, to anchor the testis in place during gradual abdominal translocation. Concurrently, testosterone masculinizes the genitofemoral nerve. Cylindrical downward growth of the peritoneal lining into the gubernaculum forms the vaginal process, cremaster muscle(s) develop within the gubernaculum, and the cranial suspensory ligament regresses (testosterone not obligatory for latter). Transinguinal migration of a testis is rapid, apparently mediated by intra-abdominal pressure. Testosterone is not obligatory for correct inguinoscrotal migration of testes. However, normally testosterone stimulates growth of the vaginal process, secretion of calcitonin gene-related peptide by the genitofemoral nerve to provide directional guidance to the gubernaculum, and then regression of the gubernaculum and constriction of the inguinal canal. Cryptorchidism is more common in companion animals, pigs, or humans (2–12%) than in cattle or sheep (≤1%). Laboratory animals rarely are cryptorchid. In respect to non-scrotal locations, abdominal testes predominate in cats, dogs, and horses. Inguinal testes predominate in rabbits, are common in horses, and occasionally are found in cats and dogs. S.c. testes are found in cattle, cats and dogs, but are most common in humans.