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Hard models for particle interactions have played a crucial role in the understanding of the structure of condensed matter. In particular, they help to explain the formation of oriented phases in liquids made of anisotropic molecules or colloidal particles and continue to be of great interest in the formulation of theories for liquids in bulk, near interfaces and in biophysical environments. Hard models of anisotropic particles give rise to complex phase diagrams, including uniaxial and biaxial nematic phases, discotic phases and spatially ordered phases such as smectic, columnar or crystal. Also, their mixtures exhibit additional interesting behaviours where demixing competes with orientational order. Here we review the different models of hard particles used in the theory of bulk anisotropic liquids, leaving aside interfacial properties and discuss the associated theoretical approaches and computer simulations, focusing on applications in equilibrium situations. The latter include one-component bulk fluids, mixtures and polydisperse fluids, both in two and three dimensions, and emphasis is put on liquid-crystal phase transitions and complex phase behaviour in general.