Are Siberian Huskies Color Blind?


Siberian Huskies are not color blind. In fact, no dog is color blind but they do have inferior vision compared to ours. They are unable to differentiate between certain colors, are short-sighted and will struggle with determining differences in brightness levels. They make up for it in many other ways though.

What is Color Blindness?

When we talk about the Siberian Husky being color blind we don’t mean that the dog can not see any color at all. All we are referring to is the inability to see colors in what is described as a ‘normal’ way. When we talk about ‘normal’ of course, we’re referring to what we see. It is when the observer is unable to distinguish between specific colors.

Typically, this is an inability to distinguish between reds and greens but also can occur with other colors. So, although many people believe that being color blind means the observer is unable to see colors, just black and whites, this is not the case.

Are There Colors the Husky Can’t See?

Yes, the Siberian Husky (like all dogs) will not be able to see reds and greens. Well, let’s clarify this, of course, they can see objects of this color (they don’t just become invisible) but the problem comes when they try and distinguish between something that is red and something that is green. So, if you have two rubber balls, one that is red and one that is green they will struggle to differentiate them.

Take a look at the below spectrum of visible light that we humans perceive and how that maps to what your Husky will see.

Are Siberian Huskies Color Blind?

As you can see, the Husky’s visible spectrum consists mainly of yellows and blues. From this, the problem with differentiating the two rubber balls become clear. They will both appear a shade of yellow. The shades may be slightly different, depending on what shade of red or green the ball is but fundamentally, the ball is yellow to the Husky.

Is the Husky’s Eyesight Better Than Ours?

Your Husky won’t see things the way we do, their eyes are constructed slightly differently to ours. Their eyesight is not as good as ours in many ways (which are discussed later) but for starters, they are short-sighted. They’ll not be able to distinguish certain colors or brightness levels. Before you start to feel sorry for them though, remember that this is all they know and they’re compensated for this poor sight in other ways.

Imagine an alien coming to our planet and wondering how we survive without eyes that can’t see in the ultraviolet or infrared ranges of the optical spectrum, we don’t know any different so it’s not a problem. Although, if aliens were on our planet we’d probably have other things to worry about!

Can the Siberian Husky See in the Dark?

Your Husky can see better in low light than we can and there are a few reasons for this. For starters, they have larger pupils. Anyone who knows anything about optics and telescopes will know that a larger lens (or pupil in this case) means more light can get in and this is only a good thing. Next, the retina has more rods than us in this area and these work better in low-light than the light-sensitive cones.

Are Siberian Huskies Color Blind?

It is estimated that a Husky (or any dog) can see in light that is about five times dimmer than the light we can see in. Although this is impressive, it’s not quite as impressive as a cat, which can see in conditions around six times dimmer than the light we can see in.

One of the Husky’s biggest advantages though is through something called the tapetum. This can be found at the back of their eye and acts somewhat like a mirror, reflecting the light back into the retina. This works really well in dark light but also, due to the scattering effect it is known to have, diminishes its vision in daylight. The reflective properties of the tapetum are actually what causes the eyes of the Husky to reflect so much light at night.

How Does the Eyesight of a Husky Dog Compare to a Human?

Within the eye, either in the Husky or in yours, you will find two types of receptors for detecting colors, these are called cones and rods. The cones handle daylight and also process information related to the color (to identify what color it is). Light travels at different wavelengths and each of these cones detects a different wavelength. The rods manage light coming in from peripheral vision and also the different shades of grey that you see in low light and at night.

Are Siberian Huskies Color Blind?

One of the differences between the human eye and the Husky eye is that we have three different types of cone in our eye and therefore we can detect all the shades of color in the visible spectrum. Your Husky though only has two different types of cone (which is actually the case in some humans also) and this makes the canine’s perception of processing of some colors within the spectrum quite reduced when compared to ours.

The differences don’t stop here though. Your Husky will struggle to determine the differences in levels of brightness in a scene or distinguish between items that have a difference in brightness.

Your Husky is Near-Sighted

Your Siberian Husky will be able to see things closer to them a lot better than things further away. In fact, anything over about 20 feet or so is going to be quite blurry from your Husky’s perspective. In fact, if the Husky manages to get away from you when out on a walk they will barely be able to see you by the time they get to the other side of the field.

If they decide they are going to come back (bearing in mind how stubborn they are, this might not happen) you will need to keep calling them so they know whereabouts you are! Don’t forget they have a great sense of smell so this is also a factor when they’re trying to find their way back to you! This leads us nicely onto the next section.

How Does the Husky Compensate for Its Poor Sight?

Their sense of smell arguably more than makes up for their eyesight shortcomings. Do you know how much better a dog’s sense of smell is over ours? Twice as good maybe? Ten times as good? No, you will be amazed to discover that the Husky’s sense of smell is over 10,000 times as acute as ours! Possibly even up to 100,000 times. This is an almost unimaginable improvement on our Mk.1 nose. If you want to try and visualize this, imagine how you see something that is a 1/4 of a mile away – your Husky would be able to see (just as clearly) something that is 2,500 miles away! But obviously related to smell, not sight. I know, I’ve made it more confusing – but I liked the analogy.

The above is a good reason why dogs in general (not the Husky, it would refuse to do it) are used by the police to sniff out explosives or drugs. There are also reports that it can sniff out some diseases within us before we are diagnosed with them!

The reason for this astonishingly good sense of smell is to do with its olfactory receptors in its nose. There are a staggering ~300,000,000 of these present in the dog’s snout, compared to a mere 6,000,000 within ours. That’s 50 times the amount we have! It doesn’t end there though, there is an area in the brain within the dog that processes different smells that is approximately 40 times the size of ours.

Conclusion – can Siberian Huskies see color?

The Siberian Husky is not color blind and nor are dogs in general. However, its vision is impaired when compared to ours. It has trouble when distinguishing between red and greens, as these colors will appear as yellow, although possibly different shades. It will not be able to differentiate between different levels of brightness and they are near-sighted. Objects further away than around 20 feet will appear blurry. However, they have great night vision.

They make up for their poor vision (at least compared to our) with fantastic hearing though and is better than anything us humans can possibly imagine.

As you’re obviously a Husky fan, have you wondered whether the Siberian Husky could be used as a hunting dog?

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Jane

Hi. I'm Jane Pettitt and I co-own petsKB with my husband, Matt. I've always been crazy about animals and have shared my whole life with cats, We currently live with 4 gorgeous Maine Coons and have 25 years of experience with this breed. There's not much we can't tell you about them. We've also owned dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, mice, and tortoises. All of our articles draw on the extensive pet knowledge base we've built up throughout our lives as pet lovers.

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