Can Horses See In The Dark (1)

Can Horses See In The Dark?

Horses and humans have been partners for as long as we can remember. From rodeos to policing to racing, horses have always been part of the culture we live in.

But what do you really know about these magnificent creatures? Apart from being absolutely beautiful, horses are very intelligent and loving animals and become part of the family over time.

As a human, we know how hard it is to see in the dark. With little light aside from the moon above, it can be scary when trying to ride a horse in the night.

I mean if we can hardly see, then how are horses going to, right? Well, actually horses might be a little better with night vision than you first thought. 

Horse Vision In The Dark

Horses are prey animals, and generally speaking, prey animals don’t have the best vision in the dark. Hunting animals are more likely to have evolved to see in the dark so that they can hunt on these prey. Like a lot of prey animals, horses have large eyes that are situated on each side of their skulls.

This placement allows the horse to see almost 360 degrees which is helpful when it comes to spotting predators who are out on the attack. However, does this mean that horses can’t see in the dark at all?

Horses can see better than humans in the dark. Although, that’s not too surprising is it really? Not when you consider how hard it is for us to see anything without light!

This is because horses have more parts in their eyes, including an area at the back of the retina known as the tapetum lucidum.

This area of the eye reflects light to the horse’s retina, enabling them to have better vision, including in the dark. On a moonlit or starry evening, horses can see just as well as humans can in day time. 

As humans do, horses need some time for their eyes to adjust to the dark before they can see. This takes around 15 minutes and is the same if they come across sudden flooded light.

If you’re looking to take your horse riding at night, you absolutely can! As long as you stay on familiar paths and terrain the horse will be able to navigate areas that you may not be able to see too well.

Horse Vision VS Human Vision

Horse Vision VS Human Vision

So, if horses can see in the dark better than humans can – what makes their eyes any different from ours? Well, to begin with, horses’ eyes have a different focus.

In fact, horse eyes are 8 times bigger than the human eye – so big that they are larger than those of any other land mammal!

So while horses are excellent at detecting slight movements in their surroundings, their focal acuity (center focus point) is considerably worse than ours!

Due to the largeness of the eyes and the fact that they are on the sides of the horse head, they struggle when it comes to focusing on smaller things, and instead just see a generalized version of what we’d be able to see – a less detailed version if you will.

20/20 vs 20/30

In more technical terms, a human acuity is 20/20 while a horse is typically 20/30, meaning we can see things in greater detail and at a further distance than a horse can.

Another difference between human and horse eyes, of course, is their positioning. While this is quite the obvious difference, it means that we don’t have the same depth of perception.

While horses have a good vision around themselves and towards the back of their body, they struggle to see up and down unless they are also turning their head. This means that horses have ‘blind spots’ – the main being behind them.

This is why horses are easily spooked when they are surprised from behind and end up kicking in any direction which can be very dangerous. It is for this reason you should always approach from the side rather than the back – so that they can see you.

The second blind spot a horse has is directly in front of its face. This is due to the side positioning of the eyes. Instead, horses sense things around this area by using their whiskers – like the grass they eat, etc. 

What Color Do Horses See In?

In the past, it was a common mistake to think that horses are colorblind meaning that they can’t see colors – however this has been proven not to be true after all.

Horses can’t see as many colors as humans can; their spectrum is much smaller, alas this doesn’t mean they can’t see colors altogether.

Horses see color in what is called ‘dichromatic’ vision, which means that they see in two color wavelengths which are green and blue.

Any other colors like pink or yellow or red will be seen by the horse as a shade variation of either blue or green. This is one of the biggest reasons why horse jumps are highly decorated and colored – it allows the horse to focus on them better and perform a more precise jump.

So in short – yes they can see color – just a very limited range of them.

Final Thoughts

So, that should be all you need to know about horses seeing in the dark! Not only are horses magnificent, talented, and clever but they have night vision too!

Well, to an extent. A lot better than what we humans have anyway. It is incredible to think how well adapted horses have become to their surroundings. Although their vision is limited in some ways, they’ve adapted in other ways to make up for it. 

Horses definitely have the night vision thing against our human eyes, but they are limited when it comes to colors!

While the human eye and the horse eye are vastly different they do both have their similarities as well. So, who do you think has the better eyes?