The absolute threshold of colour vision in the horse.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Arrhythmic mammals are active both during day and night if they are allowed. The arrhythmic horses are in possession of one of the largest terrestrial animal eyes and the purpose of this study is to reveal whether their eye is sensitive enough to see colours at night. During the day horses are known to have dichromatic colour vision. To disclose whether they can discriminate colours in dim light a behavioural dual choice experiment was performed. We started the training and testing at daylight intensities and the horses continued to choose correctly at a high frequency down to light intensities corresponding to moonlight. One Shetland pony mare, was able to discriminate colours at 0.08 cd/m(2), while a half blood gelding, still discriminated colours at 0.02 cd/m(2). For comparison, the colour vision limit for several human subjects tested in the very same experiment was also 0.02 cd/m(2). Hence, the threshold of colour vision for the horse that performed best was similar to that of the humans. The behavioural results are in line with calculations of the sensitivity of cone vision where the horse eye and human eye again are similar. The advantage of the large eye of the horse lies not in colour vision at night, but probably instead in achromatic tasks where presumably signal summation enhances sensitivity.