Blood coagulation is thought to be initiated by plasma protease factor VIIa in complex with the membrane protein tissue factor. In contrast, coagulation factor XII (FXII)-mediated fibrin formation is not believed to play an important role for coagulation in vivo. We used FXII-deficient mice to study the contributions of FXII to thrombus formation in vivo. Intravital fluorescence microscopy and blood flow measurements in three distinct arterial beds revealed a severe defect in the formation and stabilization of platelet-rich occlusive thrombi. Although FXII-deficient mice do not experience spontaneous or excessive injury-related bleeding, they are protected against collagen- and epinephrine-induced thromboembolism. Infusion of human FXII into FXII-null mice restored injury-induced thrombus formation. These unexpected findings change the long-standing concept that the FXII-induced intrinsic coagulation pathway is not important for clotting in vivo. The results establish FXII as essential for thrombus formation, and identify FXII as a novel target for antithrombotic therapy.