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Animals See in Monochrome

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"What do you know, Brian? You're a dog. You can't see color. Which means you can't see the colors of the American flag, commie."
Stewie Griffin, Family Guy

It's a common misconception that animals, especially dogs and cats, see in only black and white. This is based on very old and outdated research. Science Marches On, with more modern research indicating that different species see differently and some animals can even see colours that humans can't (generally speaking, with the exception of primates and some marsupials, mammals have poor colour vision, while fish, reptiles, and birds have excellent colour vision, better than that of humansnote ). Domestic dogs, for example, aren't completely colorblind but they see colours less clearly than humans. Dogs don't differentiate red and green well, but they can tell apart blue and yellow.note 

Despite it being inaccurate, fiction hasn't caught onto this. Many jokes and references revolve around dogs and other animals seeing in monochrome and suffering from Colorblind Confusion.

Sub-Trope to Artistic License – Biology. Contrast with Unexpectedly Human Perception.


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  • In this M&M's commercial, Yellow finds a bloodhound to hunt down the Grey Impostor. But since dogs only see black & white, the dog mistakes Red for the imposter and swallows him. This is somewhat accurate because even though dogs can see color, they can't see red.
  • Commercials for the Sega Game Gear mocked the Game Boy's monochromatic screen by having a dog stare at the two handhelds, with the announcer saying "If you were colorblind and had an IQ of less than 12, then you wouldn't care which portable you had. Of course, you wouldn't care if you drank from the toilet, either." Views from the dog's eyes are shown in black and white.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Downplayed in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. The Liese twins, being shapeshifting cats, are not outright colorblind, but they are implied to have a much more narrow range of color vision than humans given that their Nanoha and Fate disguises get the colors of the Barrier Jackets wrong.
  • It's shown that at least Spearow sees this way in Pokémon: The Series (whereas some other species see colors enough to fit Bull Seeing Red). If they're anything like their real-life bird counterparts, they should see in full color.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: One dog is shown asking God to let him and the rest of his family see in color in his nightly prayer.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Inverted in "The Paris Trip," where Bolt, Mittens, and Berlioz are depicted as having a realistic amount of color vision for their species, more limited than humans but not fully color-blind. Felines Mittens and Berlioz, for example, are able to see the blue stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek: When Donkey is told by Fiona to retrieve a blue flower with red thorns to help Shrek, he stumbles upon bushes full of said flowers and mutters that his job would be much easier if he wasn't colorblind. Earlier in the film, he calls Shrek a "mean, green fighting machine" (equines can't see red but can see green well enough).
  • At the end of Up, Carl and Russel are playing a game of spotting two different colored cars, and Dug joins in by saying "gray one."
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie and Itchy have a Wire Dilemma, but since they're dogs and can't see color, they don't know which one to cut. They end up cutting the wrong one...and it turns out to be a water main.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • One joke in Cats & Dogs revolves around dogs being unable to stop a bomb because they can't differentiate between the wire colours.
  • In Hachi: A Dog's Tale, the dog's POV shots are shown with a heavily desaturated color scheme.

  • Animorphs: According to Rachel who morphed into a cat early on, cats aren't so much colorblind as they are indifferent: "Oh, that thing's red. Who cares?" Smell and motion are much more important.
  • Silverwing: Kenneth Oppel mentions in the author's note that bats see in black-and-white, and points out that he never mentions any other color in the book. It has since been discovered that at least some bats do see in color.
  • Due to Science Marches On, The Fox and the Hound depicts canines as completely colorblind.
  • In Moving Pictures, Gaspode the Wonder Dog says he saw in monochrome before he was magically uplifted, and that looking at his dinner afterwards came as a nasty shock.

    Video Games 
  • When seeing through the dog protagonist Jake's eyes in Dog's Life everything is Deliberately Monochrome except for the brightly coloured scents (which are Stylized for the Viewer). This trope is downplayed as the colors are very faded, rather than truly grayscale.
  • The Hellhound in the first Dungeon Keeper sees in black and white, as shown when the Keeper possesses one.


    Western Animation 
  • Dead End: Paranormal Park: When human Barney and talking dog Pugsley are trapped in a black-and-white TV show, when Barney asks why everything is in black and white, Pugsley says it looks no different to him.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: When Timmy wishes to switch bodies with Vicky's dog Doidle in "Dog's Day Afternoon", Timmy sees in black and white.
  • Family Guy has a few Furry Reminder jokes about Brian (a Funny Animal dog) seeing in black-and-white. However, a few episode contradict this as in “The Cleveland-Loretta-Quagmire”, Brian can apparently see people’s skin colors as he describes the person Loretta was having an affair with (Quagmire) as a skinny white guy.
  • It's mentioned in Littlest Pet Shop (2012) that Zoe (a dog) can't see red. It's likely going for this trope, but it is actually Accidentally-Correct Writing as dogs don't see red.
  • In Martha Speaks, Martha is a dog who can't tell the difference between red and green.
  • Mike the Ox from Sonic Boom is colorblind, as revealed in the episode, "Bro-Down Showdown". When he and Knuckles are paired up on the titular Show Within a Show, when asked what color Knuckles is, Mike incorrectly guesses that Knuckles is green, even though he's red. When a red light flashes afterwards, indicating an incorrect answer, Mike asks if the light was green.
  • In several episodes of The Simpsons we get to see the world through the eyes of the family dog Santa's Little Helper. These POV shots are shown in black and white.
  • Rugrats: The episode "A Dog's Life" features several POV shots of Tommy's dog Spike seeing the world in black-and-white (as well as humans speaking in gibberish).
  • One episode of The Cramp Twins has a few scenes where the viewer sees through the monkeys' eyes, and they see in monochrome, though unusually for this trope, they see only in brown instead of gray. While color vision in new-world monkeys (like the ones shown here) isn't as great as that of humans and other old-world monkeys, they can still see shades of blue and green.
  • Teacher's Pet: The episode "Scott's Honor" portrays Scott/Spot as seeing in shades of yellow. Although the episode does point out that dogs have some color vision, the writers didn't know that dogs can clearly distinguish yellow and blue.


Video Example(s):


Hachi's POV

Camera shots from Hachi's point of view are shown at a low angle with a heavily desaturated color scheme.

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Main / AnimalsSeeInMonochrome

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