Are Horses Color Blind?


The answer is yes and no. Horses are not totally colorblind, but they do not see the range of colors we see. In Horses and Horsemanship by Dr. M.E. Ensminger (1977) at the time of that writing most authorities did not think horses could see color at all. But Ensminger sited an experiment done by one of his students that indicated horses did recognize different colors. The student hung two buckets, which were different colors about ten feet apart. Food was placed in one bucket and the other was empty. The horses were allowed to approach from a distance of thirty feet. All the horses tested, “had the ability to recognize colors, although some horses learned faster than others.” In my opinion that didn’t prove they recognized colors. I wonder if their sense of smell might have helped them know which bucket had the oats. But many more tests and experiments over the years since that book was written indicate horses see more than black and white.

Are Horses Color Blind?
Are Horses Color Blind?


We now know that horses do see some colors, but with limitations. There are two factors called photoreceptors that allow animals to see colors: cones and rods. Rods allow them to see in low light conditions and cones are sensitive to color. Horses have just two types of cones, whereas humans have three. Reducing the number to two greatly reduces the number of colors horses see. They have no intermediate hues, but grays and pastels. They see mostly in the yellow, brown, and gray ranges.


There is a good graph that shows the difference between our sight and that of the horse at An article titled “The Equine Color Debate” by Joanne Meszoly gives more details on how horses see color. You can find the article at

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Comments 18 comments

Kathleen 4 years ago

Your awesome

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DonnaCSmith 4 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Tina, read the article.

tina 4 years ago

Are horses colour blind or are they not because im doing a science fair project in this and it says that some colours horses can see and some they cannot so can u please answer quickly because i sorta need it now!!!!! :)

lily 4 years ago

I am also doing a science fair project and have been researching horses and what colors they can see, or cannot see. On another site i found that it si difficult for horses to distinguish between yellows and greens. Is this true?

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DonnaCSmith 5 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

sawyer, I am so glad it was helpful. Good luck!

sawyer 5 years ago

ok im in7th grade and doing as science fair project on this and i just want to let you know that this sight has beed=n very helpful thank you :)

Scot Parker 5 years ago

Afraid of pink? Well, we don't know what pink looks like to a horse. Maybe he's afraid because to him it looks like blood. -OR- maybe it's bright and looks like fire.

~I don't know - just a thought.

beth 5 years ago

My dad is a horse trainer here at Churchill Downs where the Derby is run every year and didn't know and he said this website really helped. Great Job.

ZorrosPerfection 6 years ago

for my science fair project i am doing what affects horses water bucket preference more color or location. I think it will be interesting. :)

horsey girl 6 years ago

i didn't know that horses could see in color at all until now i am very surprised.

shayla whitekiller 6 years ago

i love horses i would love to learn more about them to be in a rodeo for a fact i hope i can be come a cowgurl for life an ride them everyday

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DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Have you tried it with the pink pole in various locations? That is really interesting. Think of what other variables there might be - position, location, patterns, the jumps before and after?

Also, if the horse refused it once, then the rider may be doing something in anticipation such as body movement, tension, even changes in breathing that the horse is picking up on.Or it could be the color since they do see some differences in colors, shades, etc.

Fiona 7 years ago

Can anyone tell me why a horse that I know can go over all poles unless they are pink. If a pink pole is used he always refuses (from a long way off !)

jenny 7 years ago

i think horses are a great animal they remind me of a book calles the b.f.g it stans for big. friendly. giant so it reminds me of a horse because horses are big animals but they don't mean any harm

softballgirl5 7 years ago

I think horses are not color blind cause if they were they probably couldn't be able to tell what's food and what's not if they couldn't smell.

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DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina Author

Yes, that's what my aricle reports;o)

horse girl 7 years ago

research show that horse are color blind but they have limited color vision

Deborah 8 years ago

I remember talking about that bucket experiment in 4-H.

You should do some hubs about you 4-H clubs! I am sure there are some stories there.

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