Most Intelligent Animals



16 Jul 2021

most intelligent animals, group of animals

The most intelligent animals put a lot of humans to shame. We humans may be dubbed as the smartest of all animals but some argue differently. Some of the most intelligent animals can beat us in certain tasks. A lot of them excel in mundane tasks with or without training. Their sense of understanding surprised even the most experienced scientists

Believe it or not, you might have one of the most intelligent animals living in your home rent-free. There’s a reason why dogs and cats can be considered as pets. In the wild, some animals rely more on their wit than their strength to survive. The ones on our list may come as a shock to you. But, yes most of them can beat you in various cognitive tests.

What makes the most intelligent animals stand out from the rest?

You might wonder how some of the most intelligent animals came to be. Intelligence itself applies to different situations. You can test almost anyone to check their skill levels on language comprehension, problem-solving, self-recognition, and etc. Primates aren’t the only ones that can undergo these tests. Several other animals have proven themselves capable of keeping up with us humans.

Experts stated that all vertebrates display their smartness in different degrees. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish survived in various habitats. Even invertebrates like cephalopods surprised scientists with the way they adapt to unexpected situations. They all kept up with the times with not just their brawn but also their brains.

How do we find the smartest animals in the world?

Learning about the most intelligent animals lies in their ability to make decisions. They continue to surprise even the most experienced scientists with their new cognitive skills. You don’t need to look far to find the smartest animals. Like we said, even cats and dogs managed to impress experts with their ever-changing routines. Even the chickens and pigs on your farm might outsmart you in the near future.

In short, the smartest animals in the world exist everywhere. Don’t underestimate how evolution works on all animals. They may not be capable of speech but talking doesn’t measure one’s intelligence. Check out our list to see which ones already became a part of your life.

Table of Contents

Don’t attempt to deceive an octopus.

Octopus, most intelligent animals
Source: Isabel Galvez on Unsplash

You probably have an idea of how smart an octopus can be. In the documentary “Blue Planet II,” one of the sequences included an octopus pulling off a successful escape from a shark attack. It used its predator’s weak point to defend itself before escaping to safety. But, how did the octopus know the shark’s vulnerability?

The octopus can be found included in the group of cephalopods. Along with squids and cuttlefish, octopuses gained fame for their intelligence. Various accounts about encounters with various octopuses went viral online. A certain story left us in awe because it showcased the octopus’ keen observation skills.

According to an old PETA article, officials at a New Zealand marine center taped shut the tank of an octopus named Sid. They came up with this decision after Sid successfully escaped from his tank on several occasions. We can’t but wonder how the cephalopod knew the exact moments the officials would lower their guards. Did it study the schedules to ensure the success of its escapes? We can only suspect what happened during those times. For now, we advise you to reconsider thinking about deceiving an octopus.

Elephants know how to value their relationships.

Elephants, most intelligent animals
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Don’t be shocked to learn that one of the largest creatures can also be one of the most intelligent animals. Some countries in Asia continue to tame elephants to entertain tourists. However, elephants learned to adapt to the love-hate relationship they have with humans. Their large brains can distinguish the bond they have with their trainers.

Researchers published a study about the relationship of a herd of elephants with their trainers at Knysna Elephant Park in West Cape, South Africa. Elephants caught from the wild surprisingly form strong bonds with their tamers. They playfully interact with tourists and volunteers without showing any signs of hostility. This display proves that we can never be sure about an elephant’s behavior. They can be as unpredictable as humans when it comes to their relationships.

Fall for the cuteness of sea otters.

Sea otters
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We don’t blame you if you consider sea otters as one of the cutest of the most intelligent animals out there. But don’t let the marine animal’s appearance deceive you. Yes, the sea otter’s smartness comes from the fact that they use tools. Some scientists even believe that sea otters learned to use tools before any other species.

Aside from their fascinating skills, sea otters also have a reputation for being serial killers. Yes, you read that right. These adorable marine animals violently kill each other on several occasions. Male otters don’t hesitate in killing females for food. They also become aggressive when they mate with females. Now, when we say “aggressive” we mean it sometimes leads to necrophilia.

Great White Sharks use their brains not just their brawn.

Great White Shark
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Our list of the most intelligent animals won’t be complete without this notorious ocean predator. Various experts continuously attempt to clear out the stereotype that we all think of when it comes to the Great White Sharks. This stems from the fact that they don’t just go in for the kill as seen in films like “Jaws.”

Great White Sharks patiently study the behavior of their prey. They observe their target’s routine before coming up with an effective strategy. They also take time to lure their prey instead of ensuing a wild chase in the ocean. With this, you now know that you can find time to escape when you suddenly encounter this type of shark in the ocean.

Watch out when dolphins become too playful.

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Dolphins almost always end up in different lists explaining the behavior of the most intelligent animals in the world. Their reputation comes from their ability to perform tricks in ocean parks. Captive dolphins showcasing entertaining interactions with their trainers still continues to spark debates among animal lovers.

To keep themselves safe, dolphins use their ultrasound abilities to distract or escape from various ocean predators. They also use their skills to distinguish your danger to them. If you pass, you might get the chance to play with them during your swim. However, don’t forget to watch out if dolphins become too playful.

Experienced scuba divers know better than to hang around dolphins during their dives. These marine animals tend to become sexually aggressive with some of the playmates. Some even think twice before approaching dolphins in the ocean because of their notorious reputation in the ocean. They seem harmless but they force females to mate by forming a small gang before killing calves. They also bully other marine animals like porpoises for no good reason.

You can’t fool an African grey parrot.

African Grey Parrot
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Parrots leave most of us in awe with their ability to mimic humans. The African grey parrot stands out for showcasing its skill of recognizing a person or an animal in need. This makes them the first bird species to pass the test that challenges an animal’s understanding of giving assistance.

Aside from mimicking and helping other animals, African grey parrots can easily beat most toddlers in a Piagetian test. The test measures the parrot’s or the toddler’s understanding of volume. Examiners ask the child or the parrot to choose between glasses that contain a certain amount of juice. It starts out by displaying an identical pair of glasses before pouring the contents into different-sized containers. The child usually ends up choosing the tall-sized container that holds more juice. An average African grey parrot does the same.

Sea lions learn by observing your movements.

Sea Lion
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Just like dolphins, sea lions entertain spectators at waterparks with their fun-filled performances. They learned to follow their trainer’s instructions in hopes of receiving treats. This act alone shows the impressive observation skills of sea lions.

Aside from their unique compliance to trainers, sea lions also display their own Theory of Mind. Experts discovered this feat when they witnessed a group of sea lions communicating by pointing things to each other. So far, other smart animals on our list have never accomplished this.

Among all great apes, gorillas outsmart most humans in different tests.

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Other intelligent primates bow down to Great Apes for a reason. Gorillas, in particular, stand out whenever they master skills in a shorter time than most humans. In 2018, the famous Koko the gorilla passed away in his sleep at 46-years-old. He gained recognition after mastering sign language throughout his life in captivity. Because of his achievement, experts grabbed the opportunity to raise awareness to communicate without verbal speech.

Meanwhile, another subject for debate falls on the untimely demise of Harambe the gorilla in 2016. Panic ensued when an unsupervised toddler fell into the gorilla’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The incident especially sparked outrage after zoo officials opted to kill Harambe instead of tranquilizing him. This decision left a sour impression toward witnesses who saw the gorilla care for the child after the fall. The tragic moment surely left an impression on the ones who witnessed Harambe’s compassion before his death.

Don’t even think about competing against the ravens or crows.

Raven, Crow
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Ravens and crows continue to leave experts in awe with their cleverness. Various studies feature the blackbirds outsmarting some of the most intelligent animals. Ravens surprised scientists with their impressive problem-solving skills. Because of this, experts believe that this certain member of the Corvid family can compare its cognitive skills to an average 7-year-old human.

Chimpanzees can beat you in various memory tasks.

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Animals using tools easily earns them a spot in different lists about the most intelligent animals. However, chimpanzees outsmart others with their knowledge of making their own tools. Because of this, these primates easily developed exceptional memory skills. Chimpanzees easily defeat humans in accomplishing tasks made to train one’s memory. If you want to test your skills against chimps, you can find several online simulations challenging your memory skills to that of the intelligent primate.

Pigs understand why you cry.

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You’re probably wondering how some people chose to raise pigs as pets instead of adopting a cat or a dog. Well, to put it simply, pigs comprehend the emotions of most humans. In turn, they can successfully relay their feelings to their owners. Because of this, a lot of people prefer to buy pigs as pets.

Aside from their empathy, some experts raise pigs to train them to find truffles. Specially trained pigs sometimes develop a unique problem-solving ability that helps them escape mazes or locate certain types of food. Plus, piglets as young as six weeks can easily outsmart toddlers in using mirrors to find food.

Dogs may know you better than you know yourself.

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You probably expected to see dogs included in our list of most intelligent animals. Man’s best friend definitely earned their spot for being one of the best pets to raise in a home. Living with humans certainly helped dogs develop their cognitive skills. Plus, you don’t have to be a certified trainer to teach your dog some tricks. Average canines adapt to the language they hear from the area they live in.

Portia spiders learn from their mistakes.

Portia Spider
Source: Rodrigo Layug on Flickr

We apologize for giving you another reason to watch out for spiders in the future. Despite not being a danger to humans, the Portia spiders developed unique problem-solving skills in luring their prey. Because of this, these jumping spiders come up with better hunting strategies using their understanding of trial and error.

Determined to catch a feast, Portia spiders study their targets before forming a plan to strike. If they hope to catch a fellow spider, they observe their tricks to find a weakness. Knowing this, we can just imagine how this type of spider changes its tactics to match with certain prey. Their exceptional hunting skilled caused experts to give Portia spiders the nickname, “eight-legged cats.”

Raccoons might do more than just steal your trash.

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Everyone usually associates raccoons with theft and robbery. You probably had a raccoon rummage your trash in the night just like most Americans. However, the mess they leave behind shouldn’t be the only thing you worry about.

If you happen to hear a raccoon going through your trash, you best be chasing them out of your property. Why? Well, experts learned that some raccoons can pink locks without any training beforehand. Not a lot of people study how to pick locks but raccoons just developed that skill on their own.

Ancient history trusted pigeons to deliver messages for a reason.

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Don’t be fooled by a pigeon’s clumsy demeanor because they earned a sure spot in our list of most intelligent animals. These birds became essential in sending messages as early as the 12th century. People in ancient history used the pigeon’s natural homing abilities to carry out simple letters. With their unique abilities, pigeons developed the skill to differentiate images. This further boosted their means of flying to various locations.

Scientists conduct experiments on rats and mice with good reason.

White Mouse
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Scientists commonly use rats and mice in different kinds of studies. However, this did not come from being gullible rodents. Experts use rats and mice because of their fascinating cognitive skills. They can easily outsmart most humans with their exceptional problem-solving skills and memory. Rats and mice use these abilities to memorize paths that help them escape from mazes. Despite the small size of their brains, these rodents adapt to almost all situations that involve the further advancement of science.

Chickens take note of colors and shapes.

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People usually raise chickens as part of livestock on farms. But, did you know that you can train chickens? They can notice the differences in shapes and colors in their surroundings. You might see some of these birds checking their food before they proceed to peck on them. Chickens avoid some of the dirt that might look like their meal. They can distinguish the type of food you feed to them on a regular basis.

Honey bees settle disagreements by dancing the night away.

Honey Bees, bees
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Much like other insects, honey bees go head-to-head with fellow stingers who wronged them. However, their fight may not be the one you imagine right away. Honey bees developed their own form of “swarm intelligence.” They usually work together in colonies under their respective queens but disputes happen now and then.

To settle their differences, honey bees engage in a dance battle. No, you didn’t misread anything. These bees compete in a dance-off to end their arguments. It may sound odd but this method of settling disputes showcases the intelligence of bees. They all follow a set of rules that ensures peace in their colony. In a similar manner, we humans established governments to instill laws and rules.

Squirrels know how to outsmart traps.

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As we always mentioned in this article, never underestimate the most intelligent animals. That includes the seemingly harmless squirrels that scurry around your backyard. They may not directly cause any harm to humans but their determination to gather food.

YouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober posted a video of him setting up mechanical traps for the squirrels stealing bird feed from his backyard. Despite several upgrades on the traps, the squirrels always managed to outsmart the traps that Rober changed throughout the video. In the end, he provided food for the squirrels and the birds visiting his backyard.

Cats maximize their observation skills.

Cats, kittens
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Ancient Egyptians regarded this certain intelligent animal as one of their gods. Cat lovers can tell you right off the bat that taking care of cats is not easy. Like dogs, cats gained popularity for being a common choice of pet. Not all feline owners get the cuddles you see going viral on social media. In fact, cats behave like picky humans. They develop cognitive skills by observing their surroundings.

Pet cats closely watch their owners’ actions to hone tricks of their own. Their learning method made experts believe that these beloved felines compare to the intelligence level of a 2-year-old toddler. However, their memory skills excel more than that of most humans.