The 25 Smartest Animals On Planet Earth

Elephants

But moving past apes, other animals have displayed high levels of intelligence, such as the elephant. Even in antiquity, Aristotle said the elephant “surpasses all others in wit and mind.” These magnificent creatures are able to discern different languages that humans speak, not to mention the ability to tell which individual is speaking. Elephants show empathy and compassion as well, not to mention the ability to do a wide range of tasks, like the ones circus trainers make them do. They are very social, self-aware, and even mourn deceased friends and family.

Elephants

 

Wolves

Wolves and dogs used to be the same animal before humans began domesticating dogs. While dogs have been bred for a life subservient to humans, wolves are free and are smarter than dogs in some ways for it. Research shows they understand human communication just like dogs do. However, wolves understand things like cause and effect better than dogs. That being said, they care less about what we think, so they don’t look to us for approval all the time when doing these tasks to test intelligence.

Wolves

Gorillas

Gorillas are one of the more famous species that has been studied. It has been proven that gorillas can learn thousands of signs, as evidenced by Koko the gorilla who learned sign language. As to whether they are actually using language, this point is the subject of controversy, as some say they are just trained to use the symbols to get food and more. Despite this, Koko the gorilla actually scored between 70 and 90 on several different IQ tests she took, which is the same range as Forrest Gump.

Gorillas

Monitor Lizards

Another type of animal you don’t normally imagine being smart is reptiles. Monitor lizards have displayed the ability to count and demonstrate very distinct personalities. Komodo dragons are a type of these lizards; the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has reported that these creatures have been able to recognize their human caretakers on sight. Scientists generally associate social creatures with intelligence, but this isn’t the case with these lizards. They don’t socialize much, preferring to go at it alone against the world.

Monitor Lizards

Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are the first non-humans observed in the wild using tools, which was previously thought to be a solely human feature. Since then, chimps have been seen using sticks to grab insects to eat and rocks to crack open nuts. In fact, chimpanzees even perform better than humans when it comes to some memory tasks. They also group together like humans and fight in wars against one another. But they also show compassion and caring for one another, in addition to displaying the capacity for mourning.

Chimpanzees

Parrots

Parrots are known for imitating sounds much more than their intelligence, per se, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong on this list. That all changed with Alex the parrot, who proved to the greater scientific community that the sort of intelligence we associate with humans, other primates, and cetaceans can also be observed in other animals. Specifically, Alex was able to learn over a hundred words. And while there are primates who have learned many more words than him, Alex is still the only known animal to have asked a question.

Parrots

Whales

Whales are extremely intelligent creatures, with the ability to communicate and transfer information to their offspring. They are said to be as smart as an elephant or primate. They also display an understanding of numerical continuity and self-awareness, although tests that prove the latter are controversial. What is certain is that they are able to communicate through their whale song. In addition, it is believed that each whale personally identifies him or her self with a series of clicks and sounds to other whales in his group

Whales

Baboons

Out of all the primates on this list, the baboon is the only one that isn’t an ape. Baboons have a very highly developed sense of quantity and numbers, for an animal. They can clearly tell the difference between three of something and seven of something, which is a big deal in the animal kingdom. When it gets to differentiating between six and seven, though, they aren’t as successful. More glaringly, however, is the fact that they don’t use tools or know what to do with them.

Baboons

Horses

Horses, just like dogs, have been domesticated by humans to use for various tasks. A few decades ago, scientists debated whether animals like dogs and horses even experienced emotions. Nowadays, we know that not only do horses have the intelligence to understand and respond to what we tell them to do, but they also communicate back to us. They have also been proven to do about as well as chimpanzees and humans in shape differentiation tests. They can even read human facial expressions.

Horses

Bees

You might think insects don’t belong on this list at all, but just because a creature displays a sort of intelligence that is starkly different than ours doesn’t mean they’re not smart. Honey bees are able to communicate to one another just how far away and in what direction a food source can be found. They do a “waggle dance” to communicate these ideas. In addition, bees in tests have showed an ability to do simple arithmetic, like addition and subtraction.

Bees

Ants

Just like bees with their hives, the strength of the ant is in the colony. The way their society is structured, with every single ant doing its part for the survival of the colony, means that ant society runs far better than human society. Ants can detect what the other ants do by the pheromones they excrete. If an ant hasn’t smelled a food ant in a while, for example, it will switch roles and become a food ant.

Ants

Pigeons

While the dove is considered a majestic creature, the pigeon is sometimes compared to a dirty rodent. This is hardly fair, as pigeons and doves are actually the same type of bird, which happens to also be extremely intelligent. Adults teach their offspring the best routes to take while flying, passing this ancestral knowledge down through the generations. We thought that we’re the only creatures on Earth that pass down knowledge in this fashion, but we were very much mistaken.

Pigeons

Emerald Anole Lizards

Lizards, just like other reptiles, are considered to be stupid by many. Maybe it’s because they’re coldblooded. For a long time, humans believed that reptiles were less smart than warmer-blooded animals, but it turns out that anoles, monitors, and tortoises have quite a strong mental capacity for problem-solving. In fact, tests with anoles indicate they may be even savvier than birds given the same exact tests. More research needs to be done to see just how intelligent they are.

Emerald Anole Lizards

Rats

When comparing body size to brain ratio, rats compare to humans. These aren’t the most popular animals in the world because they are seen as disease-carrying pests. However, they’re also social, like us, and even display the ability to count and tell time. They are naturally curious critters that are endowed with a fantastic memory and a penchant for learning. You can even teach rats to perform tricks, like a dog! They can fetch, jump through hoops, and even sit on command.

Rats

Ravens

It’s been stated here that social animals tend to be more intelligent, and there is no animal for which this is truer than for the raven. They have long childhoods that are credited with allowing their brains and mental ability to develop. These cunning birds have featured heavily in the mythologies of ancient peoples, from the Tibetans to the Greeks, and from the Chinese to the Native Americans. Perhaps most importantly, the raven has shown an ability to adapt to a wide variety of habitats and environment.

Ravens

Crows

Some might get confused between crows and ravens because they are admittedly quite similar. Ravens are bigger though, while crows hang around in larger groups. What’s most frightening is that groups of crows are called murders — that’s right, a murder of crows. As if that wasn’t scary enough, crows are said to have the intelligence and problem-solving abilities of a 7-year-old. Furthermore, crows have been observed using tools to get food and even transport it to other locations. How about that for bird brains!

Crows

Pigs

Pigs are incredibly intelligent creatures that match up to primates when similar cognitive tests are given to them. Pigs are social and have developed long-term memories and problem-solving abilities. In addition, they’re very emotionally attuned and empathetic creatures. They have even been known to deceive one another in order to get food. In one test where pigs were shown a food bowl in a mirror, pigs were smart enough to know it wasn’t behind the mirror and were able to figure out how to locate it.

Pigs

 

 

Orangutang

We may be closer related to the bonobo or chimpanzee, but orangutangs are extremely intelligent apes. Just like the other great apes, they use tools. It has been said that the chimp is impatient in dealing with problems and the gorilla is unmotivated — the orangutang, though, will take their time to solve problems. They have been observed brushing teeth, using washcloths, bathing, and more. What’s most impressive is they weren’t taught to do any of this, but rather watched humans and figured it out for themselves.

Orangutang

Bonobos

Out of our closest relatives, bonobos are our long-forgotten cousins. The chimpanzee is probably our most famous cousin, alongside the gorilla. And while the chimpanzee has been observed exhibiting some of the darker characteristics of humanity, namely violence and war, the bonobo exhibits some of our nicer characteristics, like greeting strangers with love instead of war. Bonobos, notable for their promiscuity, are also more social than chimpanzees. Chimpanzees use tools more readily, though. Which is smarter between the two is still up for debate.

Bonobos

Squirrels

When you see these cute little mammals rummaging around in autumn, looking for acorns, remember that they’re highly intelligent creatures. They are great problem solvers that have adjusted well to living alongside humans, notable for a wild animal. They demonstrate how clever they are by hiding their food away, which indicates a strong memory. Squirrels are also known to deceive one another to thwart would-be thieves taking their food cache. They have been observed tactically reburying the same nuts over and over so other squirrels watching won’t know where to find them.

Squirrels

Octopuses

Octopuses have made a lot of noise in recent years for their intelligence, and for good reason. These invertebrates are among the smartest out there, alongside cuttlefish and squid. The crafty critters are able to solve puzzles and even predict the winner of World Cup games. They’ve also been observed using tools, like coconut shells. The octopodes drag it across the seafloor and use it as a hideout whenever they need to. It’s like their own mobile home! Who know octopuses were such RV enthusiasts?

Octopuses

Dogs

Dogs will always be our best friends, in large part due to their intelligence. They are very emotionally attuned, as anyone who’s ever been sad around a dog can attest. Besides that, they can learn to do so many tasks for us. That being said, they’re not at the same level as a dolphin or chimpanzee, for example. Years of research on dogs has meant that we know what their abilities are very well. Although arguably more useful, they’re about as smart as cats, their domestic rivals.

Dogs

Dolphins

We humans think we’re really special, don’t we? Science used to tell us that humans are the only intelligent creatures on the planet, as we are gifted with sentience and self-awareness. Too bad we’ve been wrong all this time… and these 25 animals prove it. The first animal that proves we’re not the only intelligent life on this planet is the dolphin. When we talk about the ways we think we’re unique, we forget that dolphins are smart and individualistic, just like us.

Dolphins

Manta Rays

Out of all the fishes in the deep blue sea, the manta ray has the biggest brain. This isn’t just a ratio difference: their brains are bigger than the whale shark, the largest fish species. They belong to the group of very few animals to apparently possess self-awareness, although the mirror test that determines this is not without controversy. Manta rays behave very strangely when a mirror is placed in their tanks, but the idea of a self-aware fish is a very hard sell, indeed.

Manta Rays

Jumping Spiders

While the insects on this list earned their spot for how they behave socially in their social structure, jumping spiders work alone. They have small brains, and yet they display behavior expected of much larger creatures. Most notably, a jumping spider on the hunt will plan complicated sneak attacks against other spiders, which are its prey. The spider then executes, finding its food even if the other spider goes into hiding. It is this complicated hunting behavior that makes some experts say that they possess “genuine cognition.”

Jumping Spiders