The stability of an inextensible unshearable elastic rod with quadratic strain energy density subject to end loads is considered. We study the second variation of the corresponding rod-energy, making a distinction between in-plane and out-of-plane perturbations and isotropic and anisotropic cross-sections, respectively. In all cases, we demonstrate that the naturally straight state is a local energy minimizer in parameter regimes specified by material constants. These stability results are also accompanied by instability results in parameter regimes defined in terms of material constants. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.