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Myth buster: Bulls and red

By Patricia Grotenhuis

Bulls are commonly shown attacking red objects, which has led some to believe the colour red angers bulls.

The reality, however, is very different. Bulls are, in fact, colour-blind.  For them, red is just another shade of gray rather than a colour which triggers aggression.  This is why you do not see bulls charging at red barns if they are out on pasture.

If bulls are colour-blind, why is red always used to depict something which makes them angry? Tradition is the main answer.  There are many examples in society where red and anger have a connection besides depictions of bulls, with the most notable being the expression “seeing red”. 

It is true that some bullfighters wave red capes, but not all of them do, and this is also linked to tradition and customs rather than science.

If it is not the colour red that makes the bull charge, what is it?  Simply the motion of the cape waving makes the bulls charge.  Bulls are aggressive by nature, and sudden movements will trigger their fight response, where in other animals sudden movements may cause flight.

Bulls will attack when they feel threatened, even if they have seemed quiet up until that point.  Rather than associating the colour red with anger when you see a cartoon bull charge a red object, instead see it as the motion of the object itself.

If you are ever around a bull, or any large animal, stay safe by giving them plenty of space and making slow, deliberate movements.

And that’s no bull!

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Posted by FFC on October 18th, 2012 :: Filed under animal handling,Beef cattle,Misconceptions
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