Tensile failure behavior of concrete invariably dominates the behavior of concrete specimens as well as structural elements and it is strongly affected by loading rate. The present study focuses on the effects of loading rate and heterogeneity of meso-/micro-structure on the failure pattern and the macroscopic mechanical properties of concrete. For simplicity, concrete is regarded as a two-phase composite composed of aggregate and mortar matrix at meso-scale. The damaged plasticity theory combined with strain-rate effect is employed to describe the dynamic mechanical behavior of mortar matrix, and the aggregate phase is assumed to be elastic. The dynamic tensile failure modes of a single-edge notched concrete specimen and the L specimen under different loading rates are numerically investigated. The simulation results indicate that dynamic failure pattern and the direction of crack propagation of concrete have pronounced loading rate sensitivity. With the increase of loading rate, the failure mode of concrete changes from mode-I to mixed mode. The more complex the meso-structure is, the higher the interaction intensity between the meso components has and the more complicated the crack paths are, resulting in a more obvious crack branching behavior. Furthermore, as loading rate increases much more branching cracks generate within concrete and the width of the damaged region increases, implying that the fracture process at relatively high strain rates requires more energy demand to reach failure. And this should be the main reason for the improvement of the dynamic tensile strength of concrete. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.