The impact of animal manure application on soil organic carbon (SOC) stock changes is of interest for both agronomic and environmental purposes. There is a specific need to quantify SOC change for use in national greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventories. We quantified the response of SOC stocks to manure application from a large worldwide pool of individual studies and determined the impact of explanatory factors such as climate, soil properties, land use and manure characteristics. Our study is based on a meta-analysis of 42 research articles totaling 49 sites and 130 observations in the world. A dominant effect of cumulative manure-C input on SOC response was observed as this factor explained at least 53% of the variability in SOC stock differences compared to mineral fertilized or unfertilized reference treatments. However, the effects of other determining factors were not evident from our data set. From the linear regression relating cumulative C inputs and SOC stock difference, a global manure-C retention coefficient of 12% ± 4 (95% Confidence Interval, CI) could be estimated for an average study duration of 18 years. Following an approach comparable to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we estimated a relative SOC change factor of 1.26 ± 0.14 (95% CI) which was also related to cumulative manure-C input. Our results offer some scope for the refinement of manure retention coefficients used in crop management guidelines and for the improvement of SOC change factors for national GHG inventories by taking into account manure-C input. Finally, this study emphasizes the need to further document the long-term impact of manure characteristics such as animal species, especially pig and poultry, and manure management systems, in particular liquid vs. solid storage.