In this study the yield behavior of cortical bone was determined under combined loading conditions involving tension, compression and torsion. The axis of each test sample coincided with the long bone axis. To minimize viscoelastic behavior, tests were conducted using an effective strain rate in the range of 0.01–0.06 s−1. Experimental yield loci for bovine and human cortical bone were determined using a strain offset technique to determine the ‘common yield point’ for combined loading. Several failure criteria which have been used for composite materials were examined for applicability to the experimental results. Data were obtained for bovine and human tibial and femoral bone. The Tsai-Wu criterion was in best agreement to the test data, although Hill's criterion could describe the individual compression-torsion or tension-torsion regimes with good accuracy.