We propose a computational step, called surround suppression, to improve detection of object contours and region boundaries in natural scenes. This step is inspired by the mechanism of non-classical receptive field inhibition that is exhibited by most orientation selective neurons in the primary visual cortex and that influences the perception of groups of edges or lines. We illustrate the principle and the effect of surround suppression by adding this step to the Canny edge detector. The resulting operator responds strongly to isolated lines and edges, region boundaries, and object contours, but exhibits a weaker or no response to texture edges. Additionally, we introduce a new post-processing method that further suppresses texture edges. We use natural images with associated subjectively defined desired output contour and boundary maps to evaluate the performance of the proposed additional steps. In a contour detection task, the Canny operator augmented with the proposed suppression and post-processing step achieves better results than the traditional Canny edge detector and the SUSAN edge detector. The performance gain is highest at scales for which these latter operators strongly react to texture in the input image.