Due to the unprecedented loss of old-growth forests to harvesting throughout circumboreal regions an understanding of similarities and differences in old-growth dynamics is needed to design effective restoration, management and conservation efforts. This paper reviews concepts, prevalence and variability of old-growth forests across landscapes, and evaluates different stand scale dynamics at the old-growth stage across the circumboreal zone. Old-growth historically dominated many boreal forest landscapes in both Eurasia and North America. Throughout much of North America, and to some extent in western Siberia, the natural prevalence and development of old-growth forests are regulated by the occurrence of stand-replacing fires. In eastern North America and Siberia, insect outbreaks may, however, be more important. Insect outbreaks as well as recurrent non-stand replacing surface fires and windthrows, when occurring at the old-growth stage, often form stands characterized by several tree age-class cohorts. This multi age-class forest development type is common in Europe and eastern Siberia but its prevalence and importance in boreal North-America is not well documented. Similarities in successional dynamics across the circumboreal region are found in the development of mono-dominant even-aged stands, the replacement of shade intolerant tree species by shade tolerant species, as well as in all-aged stands driven by small-scale gap dynamics. The message to land managers is that the focus should not only be on setting aside remaining old-growth forests or in restoring static old-growth attributes, but also in emulating natural disturbances and successional dynamics at landscape and regional scales to maintain natural variability in old-growth attributes through time.