The study of muscle activity using surface electromyography (sEMG) is commonly used for investigations of the neuromuscular system in man. Although sEMG has faced methodological challenges, considerable technical advances have been made in the last few decades. Similarly, the field of animal biomechanics, including sEMG, has grown despite being confronted with often complex experimental conditions. In human sEMG research, standardised protocols have been developed, however these are lacking in animal sEMG. Before standards can be proposed in this population group, the existing research in animal sEMG should be collated and evaluated. Therefore the aim of this review is to systematically identify and summarise the literature in animal sEMG focussing on (1) species, breeds, activities and muscles investigated, and (2) electrode placement and normalisation methods used. The databases PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and Vetmed Resource were searched systematically for sEMG studies in animals and 38 articles were included in the final review. Data on methodological quality was collected and summarised. The findings from this systematic review indicate the divergence in animal sEMG methodology and as a result, future steps required to develop standardisation in animal sEMG are proposed.