What Colors do Cows see? (Are Cows Colorblind) | Fact 2023

Cows are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae. Many cattle owners spend most of their time with them. So many of you are fascinated by how cows see the world, or are they color blind?

The answer to the question, “what colors do cows see,” is: Cows can see blue and green color shades the most. They are not entirely colorblind and glimpse the world dominantly in blue, green, and gray hues. Cows are dichromatic means they lack red retina receptors in their eyes.

Although they have a good vision, they still perceive the world in fewer color shades as compared to humans. Not only this, but cows can also see at night with a wide field of view.

Later in this post, we have explained much about cows’ vision and other relevant questions. So, without further ado, let’s begin the discussion.

What colors do Cows see?

Cows can see different color shades ranging from 428 nm blue to 539 nm yellow at best. They are dichromatic and can distinguish the world in blue, green, and gray colors.

Due to being dichromatic, they have only two different kinds of cones. These cones are sensitive towards low and medium wavelength color variation (blue and green). Cows are protanopia, which means they have a similar vision to humans with red-green color blindness

On the contrary, humans are trichromatic, representing the cones in our eyes are sensitive towards small, medium, and large wavelength colors, i.e., blue, green, and red.

With the help of cones, we glimpse the world in millions of color shades. Below we have attached an image that illustrates the difference between human and cow vision.  

Cows Color Vision

As justified in the image, cows’ eyesight predominantly senses the thousands of variations of blue and green colors. According to the study, cows perceive the more extended wavelength colors like reds and oranges as grayish-yellow shades.

Also, during the time of dawn and dusk, cows can see much better than humans because the surrounding comprises short-wavelength colors, i.e., blue primarily.

Are Cows color blind?

Cows are not completely colorblind. They have red-green colorblindness but can see other colors as well as humans. Like other dichromatic animals, their cones cannot individualize the long-wavelength colors like red. It signifies cows witness red shades as a combination of dull yellow, brown and gray.

Also, studies have shown that cows can easily discriminate blues from green, but face difficulty in recognizing greens from red, and this type of colorblindness is known as deuteranopia.

Similarly, bulls are not enraged with the red color; they are annoyed by the waving motion of the matador’s red cape. There are many similarities between a cow’s and a horse’s vision. To know more about horse vision, read the article below.

Must Read- What Colors can Horses see? 

In a nutshell, cows discern yellow, blue, gray, and dull-green shades at best. They are not completely color blind and can glimpse the world the same as humans to an extent.

Can cows see in the dark?

Cows can see in the dark much better than humans with the help of tapetum lucidum. It is a thin reflective tissue at the back of the retina that reflects a sufficient amount of the light directly at the rods in low light conditions.

Like every nocturnal animal, cows also have tapetum lucidum to navigate easily at moonlight night. In addition, cows’ eyes have more rods than cones, permitting them to perceive even the slightest light at maximum efficiency.

Cows can see in the dark

Note- In the eyes, rods help determine the light and dark contrast, whereas cones distinguish various color shades. 

More rods and tapetum lucidum grant cows the ability to see at night with more brightness. They can perceive the surroundings as bright as day in black and white colors in the full moon. In this way, their eyesight assists in spotting various predators.

However, no animal can see in the complete darkness; even the nocturnal animals need at least dim light to perceive nearby objects.

Can cows see in color?

Yes, cows see color, mostly in blue, green, and gray shades. They perceive light and colors differently from humans. For example, they sense the red colors in brown and grayish shades.

The cones in their eyes are able to discern all colors between the range of 428 nm to 539 nm wavelength in the visible spectrum. They are red-green colorblind.

In terms of color perceptions, humans indeed have the upper hand, but in the dark or at night, cows’ vision is far much better.

How cows and humans see the world | Cows color vision

Unlike birds, cows cannot see ultraviolet light. Their eyes have a UV light filter in their eyes that forbids them to perceive light at minimum wavelengths. They face difficulty in sensing shades of purple and violet colors.

On the opposite side, deer don’t have a UV light filter and can see the blue part of the visible spectrum much better. To read more on deer vision, advance to the post below.

Must Read- Can Deer see Color or are they Colorblind

Also, cows don’t have any capability to sense infrared rays like snakes and or cold-blooded reptiles. Snakes’ eyes have a pit that allows them to feel infrared rays from the hot-blooded animals, but cows don’t have such things.

Do cows see in black and white?

Yes, cows can differentiate between black and white among different colors. The cones and rods in their eyes can easily recognize other cows with black and white hues.

Also, according to various researches, it is noticed in the divergent behavior of cows against different color shades of yellow, brown, blue, black, white, gray, and red.

According to the book “Improving Animal Welfare” by Temple Grandin, cattle have only red retina receptors missing but can sense all other colors like humans.

How do cows see the world?

Cows see the world the same as humans but with different colors and depth of vision. They are dichromatic animals and can see the world primarily in blue, yellow, and gray shades.

Also, they have a wide range of perceptions that allows them to see more than 300 degrees. However, with the wide range of vision, their depth of perception is not as incredible as humans.

It signifies that they notice the distant objects in a blur and are not able to calculate how far or how close an entity is after a certain extent. Below we have inserted the image of how cows see the world compared to humans.

Human Vision vs Cow Vision

Also, cows don’t have the proficiency in distinguishing between shadow and a hole in the ground. For them, they both look identical. It is because of the lack of contrast cones in their eyes.

Unlike humans, they cannot perceive contrasts of different color variations. Therefore, some farmers claim the change in behavior among cows when they see shadows.

Cow vision vs Human vision-

Cow Vision Human Vision
Are dichromatic Are trichromatic
Only see blue and green color shades Can see blue, green, and red color shades
Have more than 300 degrees of field of vision Have 180 degrees of field of vision
Can see in the dark Cannot see in the dark

 Here, we conclude our article on “What colors do cows see,” along with other questions. We hope you like it. Also, this post is only for sharing knowledge purposes. We will be back with another post. Till then, stay tuned with us and read the FAQs below.

Frequently Asked Questions-

Q1) Are bulls color blind?

Ans. Bulls have red-green colorblindness, but they can perceive blue and green shades at best.

Q2) Can cows see red?

Ans. Like other cattle, cows cannot see red color shades.


Image Source | britisheventinglife

Improving Animal Welfare book by Temple Gandhin