We present an analytical micromechanical model designed to simulate the tensile stress-strain behaviour and failure of damaging composites containing a high volume fraction of reinforcing particles. One internal damage micromechanism is considered, namely particle fracture, which is assumed to obey a Weibull distribution. Final composite tensile failure occurs when one of two possible failure criteria is reached, given by (i) the onset of tensile instability, or (ii) an "avalanche-like" propagation of particle breaks to neighbouring particles. We show that an experimentally observed transition from failure by tensile instability to abrupt failure resulting from an increase of matrix strength can be mimicked by the model because local load-sharing (i.e. load transfer from a broken particle to its immediate neighbours) is accounted for. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.