Animal facilities produce large amounts of harmful gases such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane, many of which have a pungent odor. The harmful gases produced by animal housing not only affect the health of people and livestock but also pollute the air. The detection of the harmful gases can effectively improve efficiency of livestock production and reduce environmental pollution. More and more optical detection methods are applied to the detection of the harmful gases produced by animal housing. This summarizes optical detection methods for monitoring the harmful gases in animal housing recently, including nondispersive infrared gas analyzer, ultraviolet differential optical absorption spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy. The basic principle and the characteristics of these methods are illustrated and the applications on the detection of harmful gases in animal housing are described. Meanwhile, the research of harmful gases monitoring for livestock production based on these methods were listed. The current situation and future development of the detection methods for harmful gases generated by animal housing were summarized by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each method.