We examined the neuroprotective efficacy of the poly-arginine peptide R18 and its D-enantiomer R18D in a perinatal hypoxic-ischaemic (HI) model in P7 Sprague-Dawley rats. R18 and R18D peptides were administered intraperitoneally at doses of 30, 100, 300 or 1000 nmol/kg immediately after HI (8% O2/92%N2 for 2.5 h). The previously characterised neuroprotective JNKI-1-TATD peptide at a dose of 1000 nmol/kg was used as a control. Infarct volume and behavioural outcomes were measured 48 h after HI. For the R18 and R18D doses examined, total infarct volume was reduced by 25.93% to 43.80% (P = 0.038 to < 0.001). By comparison, the JNKI-1-TATD reduced lesion volume by 25.27% (P = 0.073). Moreover, R18 and R18D treatment resulted in significant improvements in behavioural outcomes, while with JNKI-1-TATD there was a trend towards improvement. As an insight into the likely mechanism underlying the effects of R18, R18D and JNKI-1-TATD, the peptides were added to cortical neuronal cultures exposed to glutamic acid excitotoxicity, resulting in up to 89, 100 and 71% neuroprotection, respectively, and a dose dependent inhibition of neuronal calcium influx. The study further confirms the neuroprotective properties of poly-arginine peptides, and suggests a potential therapeutic role for R18 and R18D in the treatment of HIE.