Livestock manures are broadly used in agriculture to improve soil quality. However, manure application can increase the availability of organic carbon, thereby facilitating methane (CH4) production. Cattle and swine manures are expected to have different CH4 emission characteristics in rice paddy soil due to the inherent differences in composition as a result of contrasting diets and digestive physiology between the two livestock types. To compare the effect of ruminant and non-ruminant animal manure applications on CH4 emissions and methanogenic archaeal diversity during rice cultivation (June to September, 2009), fresh cattle and swine manures were applied into experimental pots at 0, 20 and 40 Mg fresh weight (FW) ha−1 in a greenhouse. Applications of manures significantly enhanced total CH4 emissions as compared to chemical fertilization, with cattle manure leading to higher emissions than swine manure. Total organic C contents in cattle (466 g kg−1) and swine (460 g kg−1) manures were of comparable results. Soil organic C (SOC) contents were also similar between the two manure treatments, but dissolved organic C (DOC) was significantly higher in cattle than swine manure. The mcrA gene copy numbers were significantly higher in cattle than swine manure. Diverse groups of methanogens which belong to Methanomicrobiaceae were detected only in cattle-manured but not in swine-manured soil. Methanogens were transferred from cattle manure to rice paddy soils through fresh excrement. In conclusion, cattle manure application can significantly increase CH4 emissions in rice paddy soil during cultivation, and its pretreatment to suppress methanogenic activity without decreasing rice productivity should be considered.