The World’s Most Intelligent Animals
It's often said that an elephant never forgets, but then you have to wonder exactly how much there is to remember roaming the African savannah. Where do you think they stack up on the list of smartest animals on Earth? From chimpanzees to whales, ants and even sheep, there's a lot more to the animal kingdom than meets the eye.
As it turns out, a lot of animals are a lot smarter than most humans think. If we had a clear way to communicate with them, it would probably be astonishing to find out what’s going on in their cute little minds. Let’s find out which ones could be smart enough to take over the world.
Chimpanzees have the closest genetic code to humans. We share 98.6% of our DNA with them, and it shows, not only in our physical appearance but also in our brain power. Chimps are so smart, they can figure out how to use tools to accomplish specific goals.
The saying about elephants never forgetting is rooted in truth — they genuinely have excellent memories. They can remember complex things like routes to the nearest water supply, even if the route is really far away or years have passed since they last traveled that way.
The bottlenose dolphin's brain-to-body-mass ratio makes it easy to believe dolphins are as smart as humans. In fact, besides humans, they have the biggest brains for their body size in the entire animal kingdom. Even better, they don't let those giant brains go to waste the way humans do.
Whales have advanced abilities when it comes to recalling, reasoning, recognizing, perceiving, communicating, problem-solving, understanding and adapting to change. Perhaps that’s why they thrive in nature — without man’s interference. For instance, the blue whale, the largest known living creature, has one natural predator: the killer whale, who is a fraction of its size.
Pigs are some of the smartest animals in the world. In fact, some scientists think they are smarter than chimps. The reason is simple: They have seen pigs play video games more successfully than chimps. It’s hard to argue with that logic, right?
We love dogs because they are loyal and adorable, but many breeds are also quite intelligent. They can learn new skills rapidly and easily with the proper training, and certain breeds — like Labradors and Poodles — notice even the smallest changes in their environment.
Parrots are famous for mimicking human speech, but their intelligence goes a lot further than that. Part of the reason they can imitate human speech so well is because of their amazing memory capacity. Studies have shown that the grey parrot can associate words with meanings and make simple sentences on their own.
Octopuses are quite clever sea creatures. It has been well-documented that they have an outstanding ability to escape captivity, even when the circumstances are dire, and it seems impossible. That kind of cleverness proves they make good use of their brain's 200 million neurons.
A cat's excellent hunting ability certainly doesn’t come from luck. It comes from their supreme sensory abilities and intelligence. Although it’s true that cats aren’t as trainable as dogs, that’s not an indicator they aren’t as smart. Think of it more as built-in resistance to domination than lack of intelligence.
A crow's facial recognition is borderline scary. They can recognize people, even if they're not in or near the environments where they originally saw them. Not scary enough? Crows are also known to be grudge-holders. If a person has treated them fairly in the past, they remember it. If they felt abused by a person, they will avoid them in the future. (Hey, at least they don’t retaliate.)
Squirrels are so much more than cute and quick little animals racing across your yard. They are actually very smart critters. In fact, without their intelligence, they probably wouldn’t be able to survive long, cold winters. Their cleverness helps them gather and store the food they will need in the future.
Did you ever imagine that bees might be able to tell the difference between a Picasso and a Monet painting? This is thanks to their excellent visual processing skills — and there's more where that came from. Other bee skills include learning and performing tasks to get a reward.
The curiosity of a raccoon is indicative of their intelligence. Combined with that curiosity is also some great problem-solving abilities as well as an innate cleverness in their ability to find food. How could they dig through a garbage can so human-like and end up coming out with exactly the food they were looking for?
People often think of sheep as lacking intelligence — some call them downright stupid — which is why people call those who follow someone mindlessly "sheep." However, we've got sheep all wrong, because they are actually pretty smart. Their memories are outstanding as well as their ability to recognize faces.
Just like their cousin, the crow, ravens are sharp birds. They do things like pre-plan tasks, learn how to use tools and even remember that a tool worked before and opt to use it again as long as 24 hours later. This is something not even monkeys have been able to do.
Many people seem to think horses aren't very smart compared to other domesticated animals, but that's not true at all. When studies were conducted, it was determined that horses are rather intelligent creatures. They can recognize human emotions, and they often respond to those emotions in endearing ways.
One of the reasons humans and baboons have a history of conflict is because of how smart baboons are. It’s their incredible ability to adapt that puts us at odds with them in the end. We infringe on their natural habitats, and they simply adapt to the new environment instead of moving on. Before long, they start defending the cash crops that have replaced their home.
Some of the most social birds, cockatoos are also highly intelligent. Like the parrot, they can widely imitate human sounds and speech, an impressive feat on its own. However, cockatoos can also learn how to resist the temptation for food if they think a better reward is waiting for them at a later time.
We already know that rats are intelligent little creatures. After all, they have frequently been used for science and medical trials to test numerous things for humans. What researchers have learned is that rats are extremely curious, they have great memories and they are easy to train.
The way chickens seem to wander around aimlessly tends to make humans think they are not very intelligent, but the truth is another story. In fact, chickens show many signs of advanced intelligence. For starters, they create social groups among themselves and use 24 unique cries to communicate with each other.
Orangutan intelligence is far-reaching, and there's a lot of research to prove it. One major sign of their intelligence is their ability to grasp the concept of the future. They even seem to be able to plan for the future. Orangutans have been observed setting aside objects — like rocks — that they later use for various tasks.
Most humans assume that pigeons aren’t the smartest of birds — they eat garbage off the street, after all — but the opposite is actually true. Pigeons are some of the smartest birds on the planet. For instance, studies have tested their math skills, and it has been proven they can count up to three.
Ducks have this fantastic ability to imprint upon a mother figure, meaning that the first mother figure they see becomes their "mom." Sometimes (and hopefully) that mother figure is a duck, but sometimes it’s an entirely different animal, like a dog or a human. This may not seem smart at first, but there’s more.
Compared to their size, sea lions have large brains, and that brain size just might be the reason they are the only animal other than humans that can use basic logic. One particular sea lion named Rio was able to solve certain IQ tests that even humans couldn't solve.
An ant's brain is huge for its body. That being said, ants on their own aren't typically the smartest. Put them together with lots of other ants, though, and they show incredible intellectual prowess in their ability to organize and collaborate.
Based on looks, it’s surprising that squid are some of the smartest creatures in the sea, but human and squid brain cells are remarkably similar. In fact, they are so similar that scientists have studied sections of a squid's brain in an attempt to better understand how our own brains work. Squid brains have specifically been studied to find cures for Alzheimer’s.
Cows do seem like simple creatures, standing around and doing nothing more than grazing all day. Despite that, what's going on inside their heads appears to be quite complex. Cows are intelligent beings with complicated emotions.
Portia Labiata Jumping Spiders
Spiders overall are pretty smart, but the Portia Labiata jumping spider tops them all where intelligence is concerned. Their hunting abilities truly show how these magnificent little creatures shine. While most spiders can't see that well, jumping spiders can, and they use that eyesight for masterful trickery.
A close relative to chimpanzees, bonobos also perform at a very high intellectual level. Their ability to not only learn but expertly use language is quite remarkable. One bonobo in particular, Kanzi, actually understands roughly 3,000 English words.
Goats eat clothes, and they are famous for being stubborn. Sounds really smart, right? However, what most people don't know is they are really good at figuring out puzzles. In one study, researchers provided goats with a puzzle that included a level that could provide access to a tasty snack.