What Colors can Horses see? Guide on Horse Vision (Updated)

Horses are from the taxonomic family, Equidae which has transformed over the past 45 to 55 million years. Presently, everyone in their life has already heard about the name of this animal at least once in a lifetime. But have you wondered, can horses see in color? If yes, how?

So, the answer to the question, “What colors can horses see,” is: Horses can see different color shades ranging from 428 nm (blue) to 539 nm (yellow) at best. They can easily see color variation from blue, green and yellow but cannot differentiate orange-red colors.

Horses are dichromatic and have a two-color vision, i.e., blue-green. They have Equine color vision and can see the world mostly in dull-blue, yellow and gray colors.

In terms of color differentiation, the human eye is much better than the horse eye; however, horses have the upper hand when it comes to dark. Later in this post, we have discussed more on horse vision and how they see the world.

What colors can Horses see?

Horses can see mostly yellow, dull-blue, and gray color shades. They are dichromats and can differentiate colors in short-ranged and middle-ranged wavelength regions.

It means the cones and rods in their eyes are sensitive only to the blue-green color of the spectrum and the color variations based upon them.

Horses can see colors from 428 nm to 539 nm

In contrast, humans have trichromatic vision and can perceive blue, green, and red colors from wavelength 380 to 720 nm. In this way, we are able to distinguish millions of color shades.

Now back to the horses’ eyesight. It is estimated that horses are able to distinguish colors by 539 nm. After that wavelength, they witness everything in gray shades.  

According to the research, horses are able to pinpoint blue, yellow, and green from gray but face difficulty in differentiating red from green or orange. They see all the red shades in gray color.

In a nutshell, they have a similar vision to humans who have red-green colorblindness. Below, we have attached an image to demonstrate horse color vision.

Human color vision vs. Horse color vision

Through this image, you can understand what colors horses see. They are not completely color blind. But due to being dichromatic, their cones cannot individualize the long-wavelength color like red. They do not have large wavelength cones in their eyes.

Also, during dawn or dusk, horses are most active because the environment comprises the majority with the short-wavelength colors at that time, like blue and violet. It grants them the ability to discover the predators in the wild.

Most predators are active during the night or at the time of dawn or dusk, and horses have evolved their eyes to identify them easily with the help of rods. Rods in the eyes helps to distinguish the world in low-light condition, whereas cones in the eyes assist in recognizing millions of color shades.

Horses do not need color vision; therefore, they have evolved vision which is better in low-light conditions for survival in exchange for color vision.

Unlike humans, they see much better in the dark or in low-light conditions. Below we have discussed more on horses’ night vision and how they are able to see much better in the dark compared to humans.

Can Horses see in the Dark?

Yes, horses can see much better in the dark or at night as compared to humans. They have a layer of tapetum lucidum in their eyes, allowing them to reflect the slightest light back onto the retina for greater absorption.

It signifies horses can see at night. Every nocturnal animal has tapetum lucidum allows them to wander at night.

Human Night Vision vs. Horse Night Vision
Human Night Vision vs. Horse Night Vision (Horses can see in the Dark)

Not only this, horses have more density of rods than cones about 20:1 in their eye receptors.

Rods are light-sensitive, which determines the light and dark contrast, whereas cones are color-sensitive, which characterizes the millions of color shades.

Horses have more rods along with tapetum lucidum that allows them to see even in the minimal amount of light. Even with these advantages, they cannot witness clearly in the dark.

They can only distinguish the different shapes that assist them in noticing predators. However, no animal can see in the complete darkness.

What colors can Horses not see?

Horses cannot see colors with long wavelengths like orange, light & dark red. They have a dichromatic vision, and due to the absence of long-wavelength cones, they perceive orange-red shades as gray.

As shown in the image given below, horses see the world in dull colors.

What colors do horses see
Horses can see colors
Image Source | britisheventinglife

According to the image, horses perceive bright blue as dull-blue, red & orange as gray and bright green as yellowish-green.

During the bright sunny day, horses’ vision gets much more inferior than humans and birds; however, at night, this vision helps it to distinguish the object and movements in low-light conditions.

How many colors can Horses see?

Horses can see yellow, blue, and gray shades at best. By comprising yellow, blue and grey, they can witness dull-green shades as well. However, they can glimpse multiple variations from these base colors.

Also, the horse’s ability to perceive colors is also taken into consideration while painting the obstacles for horse jump.

Horses face difficulty in differentiating the colors between the jump rails and the surrounding. That’s why jump rails should be painted with two or more contrasting colors.

How do Horses see humans?

Horses see humans the same as us but with fewer color shades. Equine color vision allows them to perceive a blue-green spectrum with a range of 428 nm-539 nm wavelength.

Also, horses have clear eyesight. They see the world with details and in fewer colors. Horses can easily recognize humans from other animals. They are also very intelligent to remember human faces and know who their owner is.  

Indeed, they don’t have the capability to catch bright colors with their eyes. But it’s fine as soon as they have better night vision. It means they can even see us properly at night. 

Horses have very large eyes that assist them in absorbing more light. That’s why they glimpse the surrounding in the best way during nighttime.

In a nutshell, they have the same vision as us and witness the world with slightly less clarity and in fewer hues. But in exchange for color vision, they grant the ability to glimpse at night.  

Horse vision vs. Human vision

Horse Vision Human Vision
Are dichromats Are trichromats
Can see colors in the blue-green spectrum Can see colors in the blue-green-red spectrum
Can see better at night Cannot see at night

Here, we conclude our article on “What colors can horses see,” along with other queries. We hope you like it. Also, share this post with your friends. We will be back with another post. Till then, stay tuned, stay healthy and read the articles below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can horses see orange?

Ans. No, horses cannot see orange color.

Q2. How far can a horse see?

Ans. Horses can see as much as far as humans see.


Equine color vision

How do horses see? – British Eventing Life

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