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[FACT OR FAKE #83] Do Bulls Really Hate The Colour Red?

Bullfighting conjures a common image: An angry bull charging at a matador’s small red cape, the muleta. But, why does the beast charge at the sight of red? Your weekly SAYS' FACT OR FAKE columnist Sadho sets out to search the deep web to find the truth behind this popular notion.

Cover image via ridethepine.com

We've all seen Spanish matadors using a small red cape, or muleta, during bullfighting, tempting the bull to charge at himself

Image via livescience.com

Bullfighting originated around the 1700s. Ever since, the belief that bulls really hate the colour red and it makes them go wild has been perpetuated and still very widely accepted

Image via telegraph.co.uk

But is it really so? Is it really the colour red that makes a bull charge at? What's the deal here? How much of this is FACT OR FAKE?

Image via wikimedia.org

FAKE: Actually, it's not the colour red that makes a bull go wild. Bulls, along with all other cattle, are colour-blind to red.

Image via pandawhale.com

Thus, the bull is likely irritated not by the muleta’s color, but by the cape’s movement as the matador whips it around.

In support of this is the fact that a bull charges the matador’s other cape — the larger capote — with equal fury. Yet this cape is magenta on one side and gold or blue on the other.

livescience.com

Back in 2007, the Discovery Channel's MythBusters tested a live bull on colour versus movement in three separate experiments. Here's what they found out:

Image via blogspot.com

First, they put three stationary flags, which were red, blue and white, in the bull’s enclosure. The bull charged all three flags regardless of color.

Next, they put three dummies dressed in red, blue and white in the ring, and again the bull charged all three without discrimination (and actually charged the red dummy last).

Finally, they put a live person dressed in red in the ring with the bull. That person stood still while two cowboys — not in red — moved around the ring. The bull went after the moving cowboys and left the motionless red-clad person alone.

discovery.com

So, if a bull can't see red, why is the muleta in red colour?

Image via flickr.com

The small cape comes out in the last stage of the bullfight, when the bull meets its end, and its color helps mask one of the more gruesome aspects of a bull fight: splatters of the animal's blood.

livescience.com

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