Mechanisms of flexural toppling failure of slopes in foliated rock masses are investigated both experimentally by testing small scaled models in a centrifuge and theoretically by using a limiting equilibrium model and a finite element model based on the Cosserat theory. Both theoretical models include bending moments of rock layers in their formulation. Two main failure mechanisms are observed: (1) instantaneous failure involving a large volume of failed material and (2) progressive failure where the fracture initially localises near the toe region and then progresses further into the rock mass with increasing load. These two mechanisms of slope failure are observed to be controlled by the magnitude of the joint friction angle. The joint friction angles of about 20 degrees and above are most likely to cause instantaneous failure while the lesser friction angles result in a progressive failure. Joint cohesion is not found to have a similar effect on the failure mechanisms, provided that it is low enough to allow sliding between the rock layers - a prerequisite for flexural toppling.