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This optical illusion has been baffling people since the 1970s

The horse optical illusion on a gradient background
(Image credit: Bev Doolitte/National Institute of Enviromental Health Sciences)

A good illusion will often have a long life on the internet, turning up on social media feeds for many years, but here's one that's so good it's been baffling people since 1978. This obscure horse illusion was created by artist Bev Doolittle and begs the question, how many horses are there really?

At first glance, the horses blend in so well that you nearly miss them altogether, but after taking a second look you can see that there are many in the picture. People guess that there are as few as three horses and as many as seven in the illusion, but the artist herself has confirmed exactly how many of the creatures are in the painting, and it's not the answer any of us expected. Fancy yourself as a bit of an optical illusion guru? Then you'll love these other mind-bending optical illusions

An illusion of five horses in the snow

How many horses can you see? (Image credit: Bev Doolittle)

The more you look at this illusion the more horses you can see, but it is rumoured that the actual amount you're looking at is seven. One doctor has explained why he thinks there are seven equines to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (opens in new tab) website where the illusion was posted. He says, "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".

However, if you also guessed that there were seven horses in the picture, then you're unfortunately wrong. According to India.com (opens in new tab), the artist has revealed that she painted only five horses. We're sure she knows her own painting, but we counted 18 legs, technically meaning that there would only be four and a half horses. (Half a horse sounds a little macabre to us, so we'll keep searching for those last two legs.)

Even though this illusion has been around a while, we still think it's an absolute classic. If you're feeling inspired by this painting and would like to have a go at drawing horses, then make sure you check out our guide on how to draw a horse. And once you've mastered that and would like to paint your very own equestrian-themed illusion, make sure you stock up with the best art supplies.

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Amelia Bamsey
Amelia Bamsey

Amelia is Creative Bloq’s Staff Writer. After completing a degree in Popular Music and a Master’s in Song Writing, Amelia began designing posters, logos, album covers and websites for musicians. She now enjoys covering a range of topics on Creative Bloq, including posters, optical illusions, logos (she's a particular fan of logo Easter eggs), gaming and illustration. In her free time, she relishes in the likes of art (especially the Pre-Raphaelites), photography and literature. Amelia prides herself on her unorthodox creative methods, her Animal Crossing island and her extensive music library.