group of horses
Mayukh Saha
Mayukh Saha
February 15, 2024 ·  2 min read

How many horses can you see in this mind-boggling optical illusion?

Optical illusions are known for their ability to boggle the mind. Usually, they are artificially touched-up pictures using a computer. However, that does not mean paintings cannot be an illusion! One such painting has caused such confusion that scientists are arguing with the original painter!

This optical illusion has gone beyond the usual fame of being viral on the internet. Well, understandable so, because if even the original painter cannot give a definite answer, then who can?

The painting in question is one by Bev Doolittle. It shows 5 horses with patchy skin standing in a group on a ledge covered in snow. It has been one of the centerpieces on the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Services) website for some time now.

The Optical Illusion Portrait

At first glance, it looks like there are 4 brown and white adult horses and a young foal all standing close together. Their pattern makes them look similar to the contrast of snowy background and brown rock jutting out in the painting. As a result, one can call it an optical illusion.

The horse painting optical illusion by Bev Doolittle
Image Credits: Bev Doolittle | NIEHS

However, scientists have claimed that this image by Doolittle features 7 horses. So, apparently, even the creator had missed out on 2 horses. As per the group of scientists, the other 2 horses are actually partial horses like the head of a horse and a rear.

Can you spot them in the picture below? But fear not if you do not catch them at first glance. A scientist from NIEHS has the answer to the optical illusion:

I see one on the left looking out, and in the middle four faces are clustered close together – in that group the brown nose of one (second from left) covers the right side of the face of the one crouched lowest. To the right is a small horse standing sideways, and above it is the rear of the seventh. Unless I am hallucinating.

To be perfectly honest, we still couldn’t spot them. And, if you couldn’t either, then rest assured that the majority of viewers are missing the two horses. Here are the 5 original horses, though, just for reference:

The 5 horses according to the creator.
Image Credits: Bev Doolittle | NIEHS

We have to side with the creator on this one. But let us know if you manage to find the two extra horses! We would love to know. And don’t forget to share it with your family and friends. Maybe they will have a different perspective.  

Here are some more optical illusions: