Adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) of laboratory rodents is enhanced by physical exercise in a running wheel. However, little is known about modulation of AHN in wild-living rodent species. The finding that AHN cannot be modulated by voluntary exercise in wild wood mice suggests that AHN may be regulated differently under natural conditions than in laboratory adapted animals. In order to minimize genetic influences, we aimed to investigate the genetically closest wild-living relatives of laboratory mice. Here, C57BL/6 mice and F1 offspring of wild house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) were tested in two different running paradigms: voluntary running and running-for-food - a condition in which mice had to run for their daily allowance of food. In house mice, we found a non-significant trend towards increased numbers of proliferating cells and doublecortin-positive immature neurons in both voluntary runners and runners-for-food. Voluntary running in C57BL/6 mice resulted in a 30% increase in cell proliferation and a pronounced 70% increase in doublecortin-positive cells. C57BL/6 runners-for-food ran as much as voluntary runners, but they showed no enhancement of cell proliferation, a small increase in the number of doublecortin-positive cells and more pyknotic cells compared to controls. Taken together, these findings suggest that motivational aspects of running are critical determinants of the increased cell proliferation in C57BL/6 mice. In contrast, running has smaller and context-independent effects in house mice. The findings imply a difference in the regulation of AHN in C57BL/6 mice and their wild-derived conspecifics.