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Bull Seeing Red

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"I'll put on a red sweatsuit, stand in the middle of the ring, let some bulls out, and see if they charge me."
Tory, MythBustersnote 

It is almost inevitable that whenever you see a bull in frame, sooner or later that bull will see red. Almost always, this bull will see it on the person of the protagonist. And absolutely always, the mere sight of red will drive the bull into a frenzy. No exceptions. Bull sees red, you better start runnin'.

This is more popular in cartoons where the bull's emotions and behaviours can be drawn (gusts of breath snorted from the nose, red filling up the eyes, etc.) and you don't have to pay for the pleasure of an irritated bull in your studio.

This idea was started by bullfights in Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries, where a matador would wave a large red cape to get a bull to charge at him. In real life, it's not the color of the cape the matador's waving that makes the bull charge; it's the fact that the matador is waving the cape at all. In fact, the cape being universally portrayed as red in the first place is actually a Dead Horse Trope by itself: modern bullfighting is mostly done with a fuchsia and yellow cape (called capote), and they only switch to a red one (called muleta) for the last third of the round.

The fact that the bulls react to red was disproven long before the MythBusters tackled it on their show. Characters may also occasionally mention that bulls are colorblind, but this is also untrue (though the range of colors they can see is narrower than a human's). As this awareness has grown over time, expect to see many deconstructions and aversions, with the characters pointing out these significant bits of information.

This usually only applies to regular bulls, but parodies and comedic versions may also extend it to bovine Funny Animals and to fantastical bull-like creatures such as minotaurs.

The actual reason for the use of reddish/pinkish colors in Real Life bullfighting is to mask the bull's blood, as covered by Bring My Red Jacket, for the benefit of the audience (bright red really catches the eye compared to, say, navy blue), and for the psychological effect (red being more exciting to look at versus, say, pastel green). See also Red Is Violent and Brutish Bulls.


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  • Lampshaded in a Russian ad, where a guy ends up inside a fence with a bull. One of his friends shouts from outside he's wearing red. The guy covers himself with mud... and then another one of the friends remarks "Aren't bulls colorblind"?
  • In a case of this trope applied to what used to be a steer, a restaurant customer in a Tums antacid commercial uses a red cloth to deflect the attack of a giant animated steak that's symbolic of heartburn.

  • In the Motu Patlu episode "Bull Power", Dr. Jhatka creates a drink that causes whoever consumes it to become as powerful as a bull. Ghasitaram suggests he give the drink to Patlu, who starts to chase anything he sees that is colored red after drinking it.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Hols the Bull in Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger uses the color red as his Transformation Trinket; whenever he's looking at it, he's able to transform from an anthropomorphic bull into a much stronger realistic one.
  • An episode of Naruto has our hero procure a ride on a bull, though the bull seems less interested in letting him ride than chasing that big, bright red spot on the back of his jacket. Enter two more bulls, and Naruto has a free run to wherever he wants to go (as long as he's doin' it on foot).
  • A variant happens in the Galaxy Angel manga. A space cow spots Ranpha and eats her red dress. Forte then remarks something like "So bovines do like the color red, huh?".
  • Despite not actually using bulls, an early episode of Pokémon: The Series, "Showdown at Dark City," still invokes the spirit of this trope. Scyther and Electabuzz are both said to fly into a berserk rage at the sight of the color red. It just so happens that Pikachu had discovered a love for ketchup in that same episode, so during a battle between him and a gym leader's Scyther, an attack splits Pikachu's ketchup bottle open, splashing the stuff across Scyther's eyes. Since everything it sees is now tinted red, it promptly starts attacking its trainer. This is used later on when the two rival gyms are fighting each other. Ash and his friends dump ketchup on Scyther and Electabuzz, making them attack their own sides and forcing the fight to stop. The one time the anime did do the Angry Bull trope, it was a herd of Bouffalant that instead charged anyone not having a Funny Afro like them.
  • In one episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, shortly after Nanami turns into a cow after wearing a cowbell for several days, Anthy finishes the sweater she had been knitting the entire episode and gives it to Utena. A red sweater. Which results in Cow Nanami becoming enraged and Utena using the sweater as a bullfighter's cape.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Archie Comics story taking place at a rodeo, a bull escapes from his pen and it looks like he's about to hurt the cowgirls — but then it sees Archie's red hair and goes after him. Afterwards, Archie is applauded for "distracting" the bull.
  • The same happens in a Donald Duck comic story, "The colorblind bull", where Grandma Coot has a — yeah, and said bull starts rampaging at the sight of anything that's light blue. The real disaster happens after the bull won the blue ribbon at a fair, and Donald (who still doesn't understand what the problem is) gets the bright idea of sticking the ribbon to the bull's forehead...
  • Green Lantern: Issue #52 of Vol. 4 reveals that the Rage Entity is a red bull.
  • Howard the Duck: Howard runs into an idiot in a bull costume who claims that his enemy is the color red when the two of them are standing in line to register with the government during Howard's Civil War tie-in. Howard distracts him by claiming to have seen "something red down that hall", which causes him to go charging off to destroy it. When Howard meets him again on the way out, he directs him to head for the Obstructive Bureaucrat that had just been annoying Howard.
  • In Top 10, they mention that bulls are colorblind.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Mint Candy's love interest is a matador/matadora and when she turns her back on a bull that's still in its pen to answer a question the bull is enraged at her swinging red cape and manages to burst through the fence to try to attack her.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a strip from The Far Side, a bandaged guy with his arm in a sling is sitting at a bar, holding up and waving around a piece of cloth while explaining to the bartender what happened: "And so this truck starts headin' right for me, y'know, so I takes out this here red handkerchief and I starts waving it like this, y'know...but he don't see me, so I just keeps waving and waving and all the time I'm thinkin', 'Is this really happening to me?'" Unfortunately for the poor guy, the patron sitting next to him is an anthropomorphized bull (wearing clothes and a hat) with his eyes clearly fixed on the "red"note  handkerchief. Hilarity presumably ensues shortly thereafter.

    Films — Animation 
  • Space Jam has Daffy painting the rear end of one of the Monstars red. This elicited great laughter from the Toons in the audience, until Toro, the bull from "Bully for Bugs" notices it, which is what Daffy was going for all along. Cue one Monstar going airborne involuntarily. "Bully for Bugs" itself has Bugs flapping his red matador cape in the bull's face, but Toro acts more fascinated than angry.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens twice in Laurel and Hardy film The Devil's Brother.
    • Stan and Ollie are flirting with some pretty servant girls, with the boys twiddling their ties and fluttering handkerchiefs at the girls. Unfortunately Stan pulls out a red handkerchief to flutter at the girls, which leads a bull in the courtyard to charge them. (It's definitely red because Ollie yells at Stan afterwards, "And you had to wave a red handkerchief!")
    • At the end Stan pulls out his handkerchief again as he's about to be shot by firing squad, and this causes the bull to charge again, allowing Stan and Ollie (and Fra Diavolo) to escape in the chaos.
  • Danny DeVito's character in Johnny Dangerously is whacked by handing him a Schlitz malt liquor and a red smoking jacket. Sure enough, the Schlitz Bull comes charging through the wall at him. Which, for those not aware, is a Shout-Out to Schlitz's famous late '70s/early '80s ad campaign where a bull would do a Kool-Aid Man wall crash at the end of each commercial.
  • A rarer live-action example comes from Pee-wee's Big Adventure when Simone's jealous ex Andy chases our hero into a Texas rodeo. A bull then catches sight of Andy's red shirt and chases him right out of the movie.

  • In the Clifford the Big Red Dog book Clifford's Family, Clifford's sister Bonnie is a farm dog who herds sheep into their pen and Clifford wants to help by herding cows into the farm. One of them is a bull and nearly charges at Clifford due to him being red; Clifford avoids it by jumping over the barn.
  • Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest references a similar phenomenon regarding chickens (one with more Truth in Television than the stereotype about bulls) to point out how Nurse Ratched's group therapy sessions pit the patients against each other and do more harm than good for their psychological well-being.
    "Is this the usual pro-cedure for these Group Ther'py shindigs? Bunch of chickens at a peckin' party?... The flock gets sight of a spot of blood on some chicken and they all go to peckin' at it, see, till they rip the chicken to shreds, blood and bones and feathers. But usually a couple of the flock gets spotted in the fracas, then it's their turn. And a few more gets spots and gets pecked to death, and more and more. Oh, a peckin' party can wipe out the whole flock in a matter of a few hours, buddy, I seen it. A mighty awesome sight. The only way to prevent it — with chickens — is to clip blinders on them. So's they can't see... And that’s just exactly what that meeting I just set through reminded me of, buddy, if you want to know the dirty truth. It reminded me of a flock of dirty chickens."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Adam West Batman, the trope is subverted when Batman escapes a deathtrap of being tied to the ground to be trampled by a herd of bulls. He frees himself and waves his cape to make the charging herd avoid him. When Robin notes he was able to do that without the cape being red, Batman tells him that cows are colorblind so the color of his cape didn't matter.
  • Bonanza: A human version in the Season 12 episode "An Earthquake Called Callahan," where Sandy Duncan's character Angela goes into a rage and attacks anyone that's wearing red, holding a red cloth, etc. This helps Joe (not so "Little" by the early 1970s) get his comeuppance against ranch foreman Dusty in the final act. Explanation – Dusty had been jailed early in the episode for causing a disturbance at a professional wrestling event in Virginia City, and Joe went to Okaloosa City to find the wrestler (Callahan) that got into a scuffle with Dusty, and that he could explain matters so as to free Dusty. Joe and Callahan get into a huge fight and they, along with Angela, land in jail ... but in the end, Dusty arrives in Okalossa City explaining Clem, Virginia City's deputy sheriff, had dropped all the charges. Joe realizes his trip to Okaloosa City was completely unnecessary and is royally pissed, and now, knowing what sets off Angela and seeing a red kerchief around Callahan's collar, gets an idea ... .
  • Bullseye (UK): During the last intro of Jim Bowen's run, he gets out a red cloth to mop himself, causing him to turn into a bullfighter in Bully's eyes.
  • The Carol Burnett Show: In the second part of a recurring skit about a construction worker (Tim Conway) trying to off his wife (Carol), he buys her a vivid red dress with all the accessories including shoes and a silk handkerchief, then tells her to wear it because he's going to take her dancing. He sneaks a bull into their back yard, then convinces her to practice the flamenco in their kitchen. He opens the back door and tries to coax the bull to look at her. When he fails, he grabs the handkerchief and goes outside, waving it. Naturally, the bull attacks him instead.
  • Empty Nest: After Harry is visited by his carefree globetrotting brother, he decides to travel to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls, wearing a red sweater and no sunscreen. The episode ends with him frantically trying to remove the sweater as the bull herd approaches.
  • A bull-themed monster from Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger had the ability to give people horns and force them to chase after whatever color he commands them to.
  • MythBusters:
    • Busted in one episode. The experiment culminated with a terrified Tory in a red jumpsuit standing very still in a rodeo ring with a temperamental bull. While rodeo clowns ran around distracting the bull, Tory was completely ignored. It did look for a time like he should have brought some brown pants.
    • Further tested when three capes of different colors — red, white, and blue — were waved in front of a bull herd. Turns out that the bulls went after the white and blue capes as often as they charged the red one.
  • A Monster of the Week in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger (not adapted to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers) was a bull with a cowboy motif. At one point Ninjaman pulls out a red cape and begins waving it in front of him, causing the bull to become angry (even growing his horns) and drag him into a bullfighting game. When it grows to giant size, Ninjaman tries to pull the same trick, but the bull pulls out a rifle and shoots the cape instead.
  • A question in one episode of QI was "What animal gets angry when it sees red?" The correct answer was the European Robin.
  • Ultraman Ace have the titular Ultra fighting Zaigon, a rhino-based monster who reacts to the colour red like a bull. Ace even plays matador with it using a red flag he retrieved from a city building's side (which somehow grows in size, another one of Ace's random grab-bag of powers) and tricks Zaigon to run around comically in circles.

  • Marty Robbins: In "Utah Carol", a herd of stampeding cattle is further agitated by seeing a red blanket trailing behind one of the riders, prompting them into charging down towards her. Utah then uses the blanket to lure the herd away from the other riders at the cost of his own life.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle: A single glimpse of the color red is sometimes sufficient to send minotaurs into a maddened frenzy because it reminds them of the blood and bloody flesh that they obsessively hunger for.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth: Discussed in the second game when examining a particular object in the first case. Kay wonders if a bull would be drawn to Edgeworth because of his clothes, and he points out (correctly) that it's not the color that draws the bull's attention, it's the movement. She then retorts that, in that case, the bull would still be compelled to charge at Edgeworth because of his cravat.

  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace thinks Reinhardt from Overwatch should have the option to wear bull-themed armor because of his charge ability and the fact that in Overwatch, the opposing team is highlighted in red. In The Rant, Dan is quick to point out that this trope is not Truth in Television.

    Western Animation 
  • The Beatles: In the episode "Please Please Me", the Fab Four are having a picnic in Spain, and Ringo is shaking ants off their red picnic blanket. It attracts a bull, causing John, Paul, and George to run.
    George: Ringo, look out!
    Ringo: Why? These little nippers can't hurt you! (after the bull passes and tears the blanket with its horns) Hmm. They wasn't ants after all. They was moths!
  • In The Berenstain Bears cartoon this trope was averted when the characters are told to distract the bull by waving their brown scout hats. As the smart one points out, it's not the color so much as the motion of the objects that makes them upset.
  • In one segment of the "Adventures of Cliff Hanger" of Between the Lions, Cliff hears a zebu (a kind of bull from Asia and has "snazzy looking horns!") sneezing. Finding help from his survival manual, Cliff is temporarily rescued by grabbing on the zebu's horns and to repay him, the zebu needs a hankie. Cliff takes out a red one from his zippered pocket, causing the zebu to charge at the red hankie and Cliff runs for his life... and winds up back on the cliff.
  • In the Cars animated short "El Materdor", Mater tells Lightning the story about how he was a famous bulldozer fighter in Spain (bulldozers being the analog of bulls in this world). The bulldozers naturally react to Mater's red cape, and later to Lightning himself:
    Mater: They sure liked that fancy red paint job of yours.
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • "For Whom the Bulls Toil" features a bull that only moves when Goofy produces a red handkerchief, with results that land Goofy in a Mexican bullfighting ring.
    • In the Disney short "Mickey's Rival", Mickey Mouse's animate car lures a bull away by waving its red turnlight.
  • Mickey Mouse: Used in "Al Rojo Vivo". Pete once again tries to have Minnie to himself while Mickey is shoved into the running of the bulls and has to avoid the bulls, which is hard for him because fate seems obsessed with making him end up in areas with red objects.
  • Monster High: In "I Only Have Eye for You", Draculaura notices that Iris Clops has a crush on Manny Taur (whom, as his name says, is a minotaur) and tries to set them up. Unfortunately, Manny Taur goes angry whenever he sees something red (although he wears a red shirt), which happens whenever Iris tries to talk to him. Draculaura convinces her to wear a red T-shirt; since Manny likes Iris, he calms down and even comments that color looks good on her.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "The End of Flutter Valley, Part 7", Megan distracts a bull from Sting and Morning Glory by waving a red blanket at it and swiftly drawing its attention, complete with images of the red object appearing in its pupils.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Robot Rodeo", robotic bulls go absolutely insane at the sight of a red balloon. Oddly, it works quite well. Fridge Brilliance applies here: The bulls are, as stated above, robots. They were probably programmed to react that way to the color red because that's how a couple of kids assume bulls should behave.
  • Popeye: "For Better Or Nurse" has Bluto deliberately trying to injure himself (as is Popeye) so he can be near nurse Olive at a hospital. He tucks a red towel under his chin and taunts a nearby bull. Unfortunately for Bluto, the bull is smitten with the cow mascot of a dairy product ad billboard. When that script was recycled for the cartoon series that renamed Bluto as "Brutus", Popeye paints himself red to taunt a bull. Brutus pours invisible ink on Popeye to make the bull miss him.
  • Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase: Spoofed when Fred uses Daphne's violet jacket to outmaneuver a charging lion, noting "it's not red, but it'll have to do". (In Fred's typical smartass fashion, he shouts "Leo!" because "Toro!" just provoked a "Where? Where?" reaction).
  • In The Simpsons episode "Pokey Mom", the family is at a prison rodeo when one of the contestants is in danger. Homer lifts up Lisa and uses her red dress to get the bull to charge towards him, but runs into a snafu when he needs "a little calming blue":
    Homer: (to Bart) Hey! Where's your blue shirt?
    Bart: I don't have a blue shirt.
  • Superman: The Animated Series. Superman is in a Tailor-Made Prison, trapped under a red light that neutralises his powers. He uses a shard of broken glass to reflect the red light into the eye of a large alien creature nearby, causing it to charge at his cell and break him open.
  • An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures spoofing Star Wars features a bull named "Chewcudda". Never show Chewcudda anything red... not even your tongue.
  • In the Transformers: Rescue Bots season 2 episode called "The Island of Misfit Tech" , the main threat faced is a runaway mechanical rodeo bull is on the loose and goes berserk one it sees the color red (although calms down once it sees the color blue). Graham lampshades that it's actually just a myth, however whoever programmed the bull didn't get the memo.
  • Woody Woodpecker encounters this moment in the early short "The Hollywood Matador". It happens when the bull in question sees his red underside.note 


Video Example(s):


Blinky and the Bull

When Pac-man was on his way to deliver pizza, he came across a bull in the road, he tried to move it out of the way, but to no avail. However, when the bull saw Blinky (who was red all over), it charged at him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BullSeeingRed

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