Are Horses Color Blind? What Colors Can A Horse See?


Horses are magnificent creatures, known for their grace and power. But have you ever wondered how they perceive the world around them? 

In this article, we delve deep into the realm of equine vision to answer the burning question: Are horses color blind? Additionally, we’ll explore the spectrum of colors that horses can see. So, saddle up, and let’s embark on this enlightening journey into the horse’s world of sight.

The Myth of Color Blindness

Are Horses Color Blind? 

Horses are not color blind, contrary to a popular myth. While they don’t perceive colors in the same way humans do, they have a limited color vision. Their world isn’t black and white, but it’s certainly different from ours. Their unique vision, characterized by the ability to see certain colors more vividly than others, is a fascinating aspect of their biology.

Understanding a Horse’s Vision 

To comprehend how horses perceive colors, we need to grasp the basics of their vision. Horses are dichromats, meaning they have two types of color receptors (cones) in their eyes. Humans, on the other hand, are trichromats with three types of cones, allowing us to perceive a broader spectrum of colors.

Horses primarily rely on their cones sensitive to blue and green wavelengths of light. These specialized cells enable them to discern variations in these color ranges, creating a unique visual landscape for them. While their color vision may not be as extensive as ours, it serves them well in their natural environment.

The Colors Horses See

Exploring Their Color Palette

What Colors Can A Horse See? Now that we know horses can see colors, let’s delve deeper into which ones they perceive. Horses primarily see the world in shades of blue and green. These are the colors that stand out the most to them.

Their ability to distinguish between various shades of blue and green is quite remarkable. While these colors dominate their visual spectrum, it’s essential to understand that horses may perceive them differently than we do. For example, what we see as red or orange might appear as various shades of brown or gray to them due to their limited cone types.

Blue and Green Dominance

Due to their limited cone types, horses have difficulty distinguishing between red and green. These colors might appear as various shades of brown or gray to them. However, they have a heightened sensitivity to blue and yellow.

This unique color perception is a result of their evolutionary adaptation as prey animals. In the wild, horses need to quickly identify potential threats and sources of food. Their ability to detect shades of blue, which often represent open skies, and variations in green, indicative of changes in vegetation, serves as a survival advantage.

The challenges in distinguishing red and green are due to the absence of the third cone type that humans possess, which is responsible for perceiving these colors accurately. While we may take our trichromatic vision for granted, horses rely on their dichromatic vision to thrive in their natural habitat.

The Vibrant World of Blues

Blues are the colors that truly pop in a horse’s vision. They can distinguish various shades of blue and are particularly adept at detecting changes in this part of the spectrum.

For horses, blue isn’t just a color; it’s a dynamic aspect of their environment. Their heightened ability to perceive different shades of blue allows them to notice even subtle variations in the sky, water bodies, and other elements that fall within this color range.

This proficiency in discerning blues has practical implications. It enables them to detect approaching storms or changes in weather conditions earlier than humans can. This early warning system is a valuable asset for both wild and domesticated horses, allowing them to seek shelter or adjust their behavior accordingly.

A Unique Perspective

Seeing Ultraviolet

One fascinating aspect of equine vision is their ability to see into the ultraviolet (UV) range. Humans cannot perceive UV light, but horses can. This remarkable capability opens up a whole new dimension in their visual experience.

UV vision allows horses to notice details and patterns in the environment that are entirely invisible to us. For example, certain plants have distinct UV patterns that can serve as markers for horses, helping them identify edible vegetation. Additionally, urine and other bodily fluids often reflect UV light, leaving traces that horses can detect, aiding in their social interactions and territory marking.

Night Vision

Horses possess remarkable night vision, a feature that sets them apart in the animal kingdom. Their large pupils play a crucial role in this exceptional ability, allowing more ambient light to enter their eyes even in the dimmest conditions.

This adaptation makes them well-equipped for low-light conditions, making nighttime activities such as grazing a breeze for them. While we might fumble in the dark, horses can confidently navigate their surroundings, thanks to their superior night vision.

The advantages of their night vision extend beyond grazing. In the wild, it helps them stay vigilant against predators during the night, enhancing their chances of survival. In domestic settings, it means that horse owners can rely on their animals’ ability to move around safely in low-light environments.


In conclusion, horses are not color blind, but their perception of colors is distinct from that of humans. They excel in distinguishing blues and greens, have the remarkable ability to see in the ultraviolet spectrum, and possess exceptional night vision. 

Understanding a horse’s vision is not only intriguing but also crucial for their care and training. So, the next time you admire these majestic creatures, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for how they see the world.


Can horses see all the colors of the rainbow? 

No, horses cannot see all the colors of the rainbow. They primarily perceive shades of blue and green, with limited ability to distinguish between red and green.

How does a horse’s color vision compare to that of humans? 

Horses have dichromatic vision, meaning they have two types of color receptors, whereas humans have trichromatic vision with three types of receptors.

Why can horses see in the ultraviolet spectrum? 

Horses can see in the ultraviolet spectrum due to the presence of specialized cones in their eyes, allowing them to detect UV light.

Do horses see better in the dark than humans? 

Yes, horses have superior night vision compared to humans. Their large pupils and other adaptations make them well-suited for low-light conditions.

Can horses see in complete darkness? 

No, horses cannot see in complete darkness, but their night vision is excellent in low-light conditions.

Are there any advantages to a horse’s ability to see UV light? 

Yes, the ability to see UV light allows horses to detect subtle changes in their environment and may help them identify certain plants and predators.

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