Dr. S. Durga M.V.Sc

Assistant, Professor, Department of Livestock Production Management

Veterinary College and Research Institute, Salem-636 112

Cows have excellent vision. Despite having good night vision and a wide field of view (except directly behind them), cows’ eyesight lacks in a few areas compared with humans, such as color recognition.Unlike humans, cows do not see in full color. The cow is color blind in the sense that it cannot distinguish between reds and greens and instead sees them as tones of brown. A cow’s perception of depth and contrast is also limited.

Cows perceive everything in shades of green or brown, which means they see red as a variation of those colors. In comparison to humans, cows have a limited range of colors in their vision.

Can Cows See Ultraviolet?

Cows do not have the ability to perceive ultraviolet light, unlike humans. While they are able to see certain shades of blue within the visible light spectrum, they encounter difficulty in distinguishing purples or violets due to their limited red light receptors.

Can Cows See Infrared?

Cows, being warm-blooded mammals like all other mammals, lack the ability to perceive infrared light. This is due to the constant emission of infrared radiation from their bodies, which renders their detection of infrared light impossible.

Only a few cold-blooded reptiles have the ability to perceive infrared light due to their lower body temperature, which enables them to sense the heat patterns emitted by their warm-blooded prey.

Are Cows Color Blind?

Cows lack color vision for red and green hues, making it challenging for them to distinguish between these colors. This condition, called deuteranopia, is a form of color blindness that affects their perception of reds and greens.

What Colors Are Visible to Cows?

Cows have the ability to perceive green and red hues as various shades of brown, but they lack the capability to differentiate all the shades of blue and purple that are visible to humans.

Here’s an example of the visible light spectrum in both “human” vision and “cow” vision, showing what colors a cow can see:

How Humans Perceive Visible Light

How Cows Perceive Visible Light

The Range of Colors Cow Cannot Perceive

Cows lack the ability to distinguish between red and green colors and perceive them as various shades of yellow/brown. Furthermore, as cows don’t possess red color receptors, objects that appear purple to humans appear as blue to cows.

Do Cows Perceive the World in Black and White?

Cows, similar to other animals, have the ability to see colors. DespiteCows may be color blind, but they do have the ability to distinguish certain colors. While they cannot perceive the full range of colors, cows can see shades of yellow/brown and vibrant blues, in addition to black, white, and various shades of gray. This enables them to differentiate between the colors of other cows, which are predominantly black and white or brown in nature.

Can Cows Perceive Depth?

Cows possess two eyes, granting them a limited capacity to perceive depth. However, their depth perception is hindered by the placement of their eyes on the sides of their head. Unless cows are directly facing an object, their ability to perceive depth is considerably compromised.

Cows compensate for their limited depth perception by utilizing their whiskers to assist in foraging, ensuring they can navigate without accidentally bumping their chin against the ground.

Examples of Cow Vision

Below are some photos of some typical bovine scenes, and an example of what the same scene would look like through a cow’s eyes.

Human Vision

Cow Vision

These examples above show how a cow perceives color, however, they are not a fully accurate representation of a cow’s vision. This is because cows have a huge field of view (much wider than humans) and also are lacking in-depth perception.

Are Shadows Visible to Cows?

Farmers who possess knowledge about cows are aware of their peculiar fixation on shadows. Certain cows exhibit a reluctance to enter a barn when there happens to be a shadow obstructing the entrance.

Cows have a limited ability to perceive contrast compared to humans, which results in them perceiving shadows in a similar way to deep holes in the ground.

Cows have the ability to perceive shadows, however, they may struggle to distinguish between a deep shadow and a hole on the ground.

Are Cows Able to See in the Dark?

Cows possess a unique layer positioned behind their eyes that reflects light back into their retina, enabling them to have vision in environments with limited lighting.

Can Cows See More Colors than Humans?

Cows are partially colorblind and cannot see more colors than humans. While they can perceive vivid yellows and blues, reds, greens, violets, and purples appear as shades of brown or blue to them.


To summarize, cows can perceive colors; however, their range is more limited compared to humans. Cows are unable to differentiate between red and green due to the absence of a receptor for the color red in their eyes. They also cannot see any shades that contain red light, making colors like purple appear as blue to them. In addition to their constrained color vision, cows lack depth perception and struggle with detecting contrast differences as effectively as humans do. Nevertheless, they are still capable of perceiving vivid yellows, blues, and black-and-white tones.