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Bulls have an excellent vision and a huge field of view. It is a common notion among people that red enrages the bull. During bullfighting, we have all seen bulls charging at the matador as he swings the cape.
If anything matador’s crimson cape has taught us, it is that red color makes the bull angry. However, is it true that the red color brings out the aggression in bulls or they are naturally inclined to fight?
In this guide, let’s learn more about the bull’s eyesight, how they perceive colors and what the world looks like through their eyes.
Are Bulls Color Blind?
No, bulls are not color blind, however, they perceive color in a different, more limited fashion. Unlike humans, they can only see a few colors, typically muted, not with the same vibrancy and vividness as a healthy human sees color.
Bulls, like most mammals, are dichromats that mean they only have two different kinds of cones whereas humans have three. Their dichromatic vision has two varieties of cone cells.
The S-cone cells allow the detection of blue and violet lights. On the other hand, the other cone cell is sensitive to detecting varying wavelengths of yellow and green light.
Their vision is quite similar to that of humans, only with red-color blindness. It is safe to say that they are partially color blind.
What Colors Can Bulls See?
Bulls can see in color, however, the color range is not as wide. They are red colorblind, so, they can not see in full color. Bulls only have green and blue receptors but lack red receptors.
Besides grey and black, bulls can see colors in the yellow and blue spectrum with lower intensity and vibrancy. Their color palette is not as rich as human beings, therefore, they can not see all shades of yellow and blue.
Bulls are extremely sensitive to sharp changes in light and dark. Owing to poor depth perception, these changes can be disturbing for a bull, for instance, a darkly painted fence around a white building.
What Colors Can Bulls Not See?
They can not see all shades of red as different versions of greys and blacks. Bulls and cows are not the only animals with this default, this shortfall is common in horses, dogs, cats, and a small portion of human beings.
Nearly all mammals are blind to red color. Though bulls are red color blind, they can surely distinguish between different colors, including red. However, they can not see red colors as humans do.
They might perceive red as slightly purple-tinged, grey, black, or some shades of brown. There is no true way of knowing how the red color looks to the bulls. The perceived hue changes with saturation and brightness.
Ultraviolet and Infrared
The color variety is limited for bulls, so, it is not possible for them to see ultraviolet light, however, some blue light. Even in the visible light spectrum, bulls struggle to perceive purples and violets.
Like all mammals, cattle can not see infrared as being warm-blooded animals, it is impossible to detect infrared light because of the heat of their body giving off infrared all the time.
Bull’s Behavior to Contrast
Bulls are sensitive to stark contrasts than colors which makes them alert upon seeing shadows and other objects with sharp contrasts.
Contrast differences between the two objects disturb the bull, for instance, a black fence near a white barn.
Because of these differences, they tend to avoid drinking water with harsh reflection from the sunlight. They see the building’s shadow as a big hole in the ground and like to stay in well-lit areas.
Staying in poor light makes them anxious, so, they move to moderately-lit areas to avoid dangerous situations.
Bulls are naturally aggressive and these contrast differences can make the bull angrier. To keep the bulls calm, paint their fence and the adjacent areas in the same scheme, if possible.
Bulls have poor depth perception, meaning they struggle to distinguish how far or how close an object is from them. Poor depth perception also explains some of the odd behaviors of the bulls.
They hesitate from moving shadows and run right into the fence without realizing how close it was. Since they have issues with perception, they can run right into the farmer or any person working around them as well.
Bulls and cows have a strange obsession with shadows because of their inability to distinguish contrast and depth perception.
Bulls refuse to enter the fence if they see a shadow hindering the entrance because it looks identical to a deep hole.
Why Do Bulls Hate the Color Red?
Bullfighting conjures up the image of a matador’s small red cape, the muleta, and the angry bull. Most people think red makes them angry, however, this color means next-to-nothing to the bulls.
Bulls do not perceive red, unlike the popular belief that a red flag or cape is used to enrage the bull. It just does not make sense that bulls hate red when they can not see the color in the first place. They lack red color receptors in their retinas and mostly see red as black or grey.
The bull gets irritated by the swinging movement of the cape, making the bull go into fight mode.
The red cape is used because it looks nice and is easy to see from the stands. This color is used for its grandeur and to hide bloodstains. The crimson cape is also used as a matter of tradition.
Bulls can not be classified as colorblind, in the full sense of the word. They are partially color blind and can only see colors to a certain extent. Their two-colored vision allows them to see varying shades and wavelengths of blue, violet, yellow, and green. Besides limited color vision and poor depth perception, they can not pick up on the contrast differences as well.