The von Mises (VM) stress is a common stress measure for finite element models of tissue mechanics. The VM failure criterion, however, is inherently isotropic, and therefore may yield incorrect results for anisotropic tissues, and the relevance of the VM stress to anisotropic materials is not clear. We explored the application of a well-studied anisotropic failure criterion, the Tsai–Hill (TH) theory, to the mechanically anisotropic porcine aorta. Uniaxial dogbones were cut at different angles and stretched to failure. The tissue was anisotropic, with the circumferential failure stress nearly twice the axial (2.67 ± 0.67 MPa compared to 1.46 ± 0.59 MPa). The VM failure criterion did not capture the anisotropic tissue response, but the TH criterion fit the data well (R^{2 }= 0.986). Shear lap samples were also tested to study the efficacy of each criterion in predicting tissue failure. Two-dimensional failure propagation simulations showed that the VM failure criterion did not capture the failure type, location, or propagation direction nearly as well as the TH criterion. Over the range of loading conditions and tissue geometries studied, we found that problematic results that arise when applying the VM failure criterion to an anisotropic tissue. In contrast, the TH failure criterion, though simplistic and clearly unable to capture all aspects of tissue failure, performed much better. Ultimately, isotropic failure criteria are not appropriate for anisotropic tissues, and the use of the VM stress as a metric of mechanical state should be reconsidered when dealing with anisotropic tissues.