Rubble-mound breakwaters usually consist of a core of small quarry-run rock protected by one or more intermediate layers or underlayers that separate the core from the cover layers, which are composed of large armor units. Failure of rubble-mound breakwaters may be due to effects such as removal or damage of the armor units, overtopping leading to scouring, toe erosion, loss of the core material, or foundation problems under waves. However, whether rubble mounds fail under seismic loads is unknown. High seismic activity can lead to large settlements and even to failure of the breakwaters. The design of coastal structures should take into account the most relevant factors in each case, including seismic loading. The objective of this study is to understanding the failure mechanisms of conventional breakwater structures under seismic loads on rigid foundations. Hence, an experimental study was carried out on conventional breakwater structures with and without toes, subjected to different dynamic loadings of variable frequencies and amplitudes, in a shaking tank. A shaking tank with a single degree of freedom was developed to study the simple responses of conventional rubble-mound breakwaters under cyclic loads. For each test, an automatic raining crane system was used to achieve the same relative density and porosity of the core material. The input motion induced horizontal accelerations of different magnitudes during the tests. The accelerations and the deformation phases of the model were measured by a data acquisition system and an image processing system. The experiments on the conventional rubble-mound type breakwater model were performed under rigid-bottom conditions. The model's scale was 1:50. Cyclic responses of breakwaters with toes and without toes were examined separately, and their behaviors were compared. The results were compared with a numerical study, and the material properties and failure modes were thus defined. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.