Turquoise water buckets given slurp of approval by horses

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The water buckets use in the study were positioned about two metres part. Each day, the buckets were shifted by one row. Thus, the buckets were each tested in all positions.
A line-up of water buckets used in the study. The buckets were always positioned about two metres apart. Each day, the buckets were shifted by one row. Thus, the buckets were each tested in all positions. Image: Yildirima and Yildiz, http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0719-81322020000200049

Horses showed a preference for turquoise-coloured water buckets in a study involving six horses.

The three Thoroughbreds and three Haflinger horses in the experiment showed a significant preference for drinking water from turquoise buckets when compared to other colours such as light green, green, yellow, and red.

In addition, the water consumption from the lighter-toned buckets (turquoise and light blue) was higher than from dark tone ones (green, yellow, red).

Researchers Fatih Yildirim and Ahmet Yildiz, with the Department of Animal Science, part of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Atatürk in Turkey, said there is general agreement that horses have dichromatic colour vision, with similar capabilities to people with red-green colour deficiencies (so-called colour blindness).

The pair, in a study reported in the Austral Journal of Veterinary Sciences, set out to investigate equine preferences for six bucket colours – red, light green, yellow, green, light blue, turquoise – by measuring the amount of water consumed from each.

Water consumption from the buckets, lined up alongside the edge of an outdoor arena, was monitored from 9am to 4pm daily.

The experiment was completed over 18 days, with two horses tested each day in adjoining arenas. The buckets were re-ordered when each horse repeated the experiment, to ensure position had no bearing on the result.

The observation of each horse from each breed lasted six consecutive days to allow the horses to see all possible re-arranged rows of buckets.

The average daily water consumption of each horse was calculated to be 4.29 litres per bucket, totalling 25.74 litres across the six buckets.

However, there was a clear preference for the turquoise buckets (an average of 6.81 litres a day, plus or minus 0.88 litres) while the red buckets (an average of 2.81 litres a day, plus or minus 0.40 L) had the lowest water consumption.

The preferences for the remaining colours, from highest to lowest, were light blue, light green, green and yellow.

Discussing their findings, the authors noted that while studies on horse vision generally explored certain colours, such as red, yellow, blue and green, they did not sufficiently examine variations in those particular tones.

“In this study, different tones (e.g. light green, light blue, and turquoise) that might affect the vision of the horse were used, and different results were obtained.”

Turquoise, they noted, is a mixture of blue and green.

The researchers suggested that turquoise or light blue water buckets be used for horses.

“Further investigations on the relationship between the water consumption, colour and tone of buckets are needed to help better understand the correlation between colour vision, preference, and water consumption,” they said.

Yildirim, Fatih, & Yildiz, Ahmet. (2020). Water bucket colour preferences in horses. Austral Journal of veterinary sciences, 52(2), 49-54. https://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0719-81322020000200049

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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