In the inferior temporal (IT) cortex of monkeys, which has been shown to play a critical role in colour discrimination, there are neurons sensitive to a narrow range of hues and saturation. By contrast, neurons in the retina and the parvocellular layer of the lateral geniculate nucleus (pLGN) encode colours in a way that does not provide explicit representation of hue or saturation, and the process by which hue- and saturation-selectivity is elaborated remains unknown. We therefore tested the colour-selectivity of neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1) and compared it with those of pLGN and IT neurons. Quantitative analysis was performed using a standard set of colours, systematically distributed within the CIE (Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage)-xy chromaticity diagram. Selectivity for hue and saturation was characterized by analysing response contours reflecting the overall distribution of responses across the chromaticity diagram. We found that the response contours of almost all pLGN neurons were linear and broadly tuned for hue. Many V1 neurons behaved similarly; nonetheless, a considerable number of V1 neurons had clearly curved response contours and were selective for a narrow range of hues or saturation. The relative frequencies of neurons exhibiting various selectivities for hue and saturation were remarkably similar in the V1 and IT cortex, but were clearly different in the pLGN. Thus, V1 apparently plays a very important role in the conversion of colour signals necessary for generating the elaborate colour selectivity observed in the IT cortex.