Can Cows See Color: Why, When, How, Interesting Facts


Can Cows See Color: Why, When, How, Interesting Facts

We, humans, are blessed with the ability to see and cherish different colors. But have you ever wondered if animals, especially cattle, can also see colors like us?

If we compare human’s color viewing capacity with that of cows, we will find that the latter does not have the ability to see the color red. That being said, it is a wrong conception that red makes cattle mad. 

One of the main reasons behind cows’ colorblindness is that they have only two-color receptors. And although they have muted versions of a few colors, cows can be sensitive to stark color contrasts. 

In this article, we will discuss cows’ abilities to see colors and what the world looks like through their eyes. 

Figure Image Credit: Cows see different colors from Pxhere

Are cows colorblind?

We have already mentioned that cows do not have a broad color spectrum like humans in the above section. But does that mean they are color blind?

The answer to the above question is negative. Cows are definitely not color blind, as they can see the shades of yellow, black, white, grey, blue, and violet.

So, although cows are not entirely colorblind, the condition they have is called deuteranopia.

Can cows recognize color?

Image Credit: Cows are not color blind from Pxhere

Cows are domestic animals that see this world in different colors than humans. Their eyes and the nerves within the created differently. With this, what comes to our mind if cows can recognize colors?

So, cows can see a few shades of colors, and for them, colors stand as different entities. Different research works on cows state a sequence in the cows’ differentiation of colors, which makes them react to different colors differently.

Can cows see UV colors?

Many animals and birds have different color perceptions, and some of them can even see UV colors. 

But this cannot be stated for cows. We say so because cows cannot see UV or ultraviolet colors. That being said, cows can see some shades of blue light, but they struggle to see purples or violets even in the visible light spectrum. Again, this is due to the lack of red-light receptors in them. 

Do cows see in black and white?

After we know that cows cannot see a few colors, it often strikes our mind whether this animal sees things in black and white. Is their world utterly devoid of colors?

Well, not exactly. Although cows are not as lucky as humans in seeing colors, their world is not just black and white. Instead, they are simply red/ green color blind, which makes them see these colors like shades of brown. 

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In this regard, the book “Improving Animal Welfare” states that cattle, including cows, lack the red retina receptor, which results in seeing only yellow, green, blue, and violet colors along with black, white, and grey shades. 

Here one thing that might intrigue you is that cows perceive everything red as a shade of green or brown and have a narrower color spectrum than humans.  

What color do cows see best?

Cattle, including cows, are better at distinguishing colors with long wavelengths. However, they struggle to discern colors with shorter wavelengths like green.

That being said, cows can see the faded versions of blue and yellow. This is so because cows have only two-color receptors. However, keep in mind that cows can see the shades of blue and yellow, but it does not include all the shades of these colors because they are very close to the green spectrum.

That being said, it is interesting to note that cows can distinguish almost every color if they see them from a grey background. 

Can cows see white?

It may be perplexing at times to determine if cows can see shades of white as humans can.

Cows cannot see most colors as humans can. But they can surely see white, along with black and a few other colors, which we have already mentioned in the above section(s). 

Can cows see green?

Have you ever wondered what colors cows cannot see? Or if they cannot see a specific shade as it is, how do they perceive them?

Well, cows cannot see green shades. However, they perceive green/ red as the shades of brown or yellow. This is so because cows’ color spectrum is pretty narrow.  

Can cows see red?

It is a generalized perception that cows and bulls often get angry on seeing red colors. But can cows even see the red color to get mad at it?

That being said, it is a proven fact that cows do not have red receptors in their eyes, which makes them mute towards the shades of red. 

What colors can cows not see?

We have already stated that cows have only two-color receptors in their retina. This condition restricts them from seeing every color like humans.

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So, cows cannot see reds or greens; instead, they perceive these colors as shades of brown or yellow. In addition, since cows cannot see shades of red, they perceive purple shades as blue.

What color are cows afraid of?

Image Credit: Cows are not afraid of any certain color from Max Pixel

There is often a conception in our mind that cows or bulls are afraid of specific colors or certain shades that make them go mad. However, there is no scientific information to back up this concept.

That being said, cows are not afraid of any color, but they have an inherent fear for unfamiliar objects, smells, noises, movements, and situations. 

Can cows see in the dark?

Some animal species, like cats, are known to have great nighttime vision, which helps them see in the dark. These animals have what is known as the tapetum lucidum.

Similarly, cows can also see in the dark. As per the experts, cows’ eyes and vision provide the most information to their senses. Therefore, cows’ ability to see things in the dark is a way to survive. In addition, their panoramic vision works fine even at night, which lets them see their surroundings without moving their head. 

One of the primary reasons cows can see even in the dark is a particular reflective layer behind their eyes. This layer allows them to see in low-light circumstances by reflecting light through their retina a second time.

However, it must be noted that although cows can see in the dark, their weak eye muscles do not allow them to focus on things properly. 

What do cows see?

Cows see this world in a whole different way. Thanks to their differently created eyes and vision, cows have different perceptions.

We should remember is that although cows have panoramic vision and 360-degree peripheral vision, they cannot see things clearly. Therefore, they lack the ability to focus on things fast. Also, their vertical vision is about 60-degrees as compared to humans’ 140-degree. As a result, cows need to lower their head to focus on things lying on the ground.

We should also keep in mind that cows have their blind spot right behind them in this context. So, although they may not see you coming from behind, they would know you are there. And this may change their behavior all of a sudden. 

What is the vision of a cow?

Cows’ eyes are created differently. Their sensory organs, color receptors, the field of vision, etc., work differently than humans.

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To understand the vision of a cow, let us explore the following:

Field of vision:

Cows have 360-degree peripheral vision, which means they can see everything surrounding them, except what is behind them.

Panoramic vision:

Unlike humans, cows’ panoramic vision helps them to see things around them without moving their heads. 

Perception depth:

However, cows’ depth of perception is poor. As a result, they cannot focus on things straightforwardly and need to lower their head to see them closely to understand. 

Night vision:

Cows have pretty good night vision. They can see things in the dark but tend to have issues with their focus.

How do cows see humans?

Humans have a 180-degree field of vision, which means we can see from one corner of our eye to another. But this is not the case for cows, as they have 360-degrees of peripheral vision.

Cows have eyes on the sides of their head, and when they lower down their heads, they can see almost 360-degree. However, cows lack the depth of perception if not looking straight on. So, they can surely see humans and detect predators but often lack understanding of depth or distance. 

It is also interesting to note that since cows lack the depth of perception, they cannot differentiate between humans well. 

Do cows see humans bigger?

It has been established that cows perceive their surroundings in different colors than humans and other animal species. Also, they have horizontal pupils and cannot see up or down.

That being said, cows do not see humans bigger. Instead, they have what is called a panoramic vision. That means they can see things without moving their heads. Also, they have a 360-degree peripheral vision, enabling them to have a vast field of vision except seeing what is behind them. 


To wrap up, we can say that cows are different from humans every term, including their ability to perceive colors. But it is wrong to think that cows are color blind. They can see certain shades like yellow, blue, etc. Moreover, cows’ depth of perception is also low, and they cannot pick up well contrasts and humans.  It is essential to understand cows’ ability to see color to handle and get along with them better.

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