Empirical studies that analyze the gender gap in livestock ownership are scarce. This paper investigates gender differences in livestock holding using five waves of survey data (1998-2010) from Northern Ethiopia. By employing decomposition analysis, we find that female-headed households (FHHs) own significantly fewer livestock compared to male-headed households (MHHs). Differences in observed characteristics and returns to characteristics account for 29 and 51 percent of the gender difference, respectively. Lower endowment of land area, male labor and children (aged 6 to 14) in FHHs are the observed factors causing the disparity. Gender difference is more pronounced in the ownership of large animals than in the ownership of small animals. Findings are relevant for gender-sensitive public interventions that aim to promote livestock accumulation.