Erythropoietin (EPO) has shown promise as a neuroprotectant in animal models of ischemic stroke. EPO is thought not only to protect neurons from cell death, but also to promote regeneration after stroke. Here, we report a systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of EPO in animal models of focal cerebral ischemia. Primary outcomes were infarct size and neurobehavioral outcome. Nineteen studies involving 346 animals for infarct size and 425 animals for neurobehavioral outcome met our inclusion criteria. Erythropoietin improved infarct size by 30.0% (95% CI: 21.3 to 38.8) and neurobehavioral outcome by 39.8% (33.7 to 45.9). Studies that randomized to treatment group or that blinded assessment of outcome showed lower efficacy. Erythropoietin was tested in animals with hypertension in no studies reporting infarct size and in 7.5% of the animals reporting neurobehavioral outcome. These findings show efficacy for EPO in experimental stroke, but when the impact of common sources of bias are considered, this efficacy falls, suggesting we may be overestimating its potential benefit. As common human co-morbidities may reduce therapeutic efficacy, broader testing to delineate the range of circumstances in which EPO works best would be beneficial.