Black and White 24/7: The Truth About Animal Color Vision



Ever since I can remember I have heard that dogs see in black and white. I always wondered how this was possible and if other animals experience this same phenomenon. Do my cats experience the same thing? If so, what is the science behind all of this data? What makes humans see in color and what makes animals see in black and white?


According to, dogs, cats, mice, rats, and rabbits all have similar color vision, which is very poor. Everything they see is a duller version of what humans see, with more greys, blues and yellows. So, dogs don't see in complete black and white like an old movie, just a lot duller. Bulls, however, see in complete black and white. Most of us associate these animals with how they run into red capes. In reality, the cape doesn't even appear red to these animals. Who would have thought?! Also, bees and other insects are on the opposite end of the spectrum than bulls for they have color vision that extends into ultraviolet colors. 


The science behind color vision has to do with rods and cones. The rods allow us to see light and the cones allow us to see color. Humans have three sets of these cones that allow them to detect color. Animals and other furry friends only have two sets of cones which explains why they do not see colors the same way we do. On the other hand, animals have more rods than we do. This allows them to have really good vision at night while humans are practically blind at night.


All in all, the color vision on an animal depends entirely on the species. While some animals have terrible color vision causing them to see in almost black and white, they have great night vision. I'd say it's a good tradeoff.


This is a perfect situation for me to introduce the coolest animal in the world. NO that's not an understatement. It is called them mantis shrimp. Human beings have three color receptive cones, the mantis shrimp has 16. SIXTEEN! What that means is that they can see colors that we can't even imagine because we are physically unable to see them. Thats not the only reason why this magnificent animal is the coolest thing around. Heres a cool website that goes more in depth as to why its AWESOME.

I found this article interesting, never really stopped to think what the world looks like to an animal. Emma you briefly mention bulls, and how they only see black and white. And I found myself wondering, if they only see things on a grey spectrum why are they so well know for attacking the color red? Wouldn't the red cape we all think of just be another shade of grey to them? Here

I accidentally submitted the above post. I was about to say, "Here is what I found." It is all just a myth. Ever since the 1700's when bull fighting originated, they always used red capes. People started associating the color red with the aggression of the bull. However, it is solely the movement of the cape not the color.

I've always wondered this. I remember when I was younger, on the TV show, "Rugrats", they would always portray the vision of the dog Spike in black and white. Ever since then, I've always assumed that that was just the way things were. However, it was extremely interesting to learn that not only is that untrue, but that certain species of animals have an even broader spectrum of colors than we do. This makes me question whether or not we are also missing out on broader spectrum's of other senses.
Here are some fun animal senses you wouldn't believe existed:

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