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The Smartest Animals in the World

Humans might be the most intelligent beings on our planet, but that doesn’t mean to say that other species are not smart. Many researchers have proven that some animals have incredible skills of communication, emotion and memory, many of which mirror those of humans.

While there are some things we understand about animals and can relate to their psychology, there is so much more to be uncovered which allows them to surprise us all the time. With all these intelligent animals, you might be wondering how they go up against each other? Read on to see if cats are smarter than dogs, and which surprising bird has the biggest brain of them all…


Pigeons are considered rats with wings, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t quite the intelligent birds. Homing pigeons teach the baby pigeons about the best flying routes, something that is passed from generation to generation.

Pigeons can recognise all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualise. For this reason, they are usually included in experiments concerned with animal cognition. They can also be taught relatively complex actions and different sequences to respond with. 

Moray eels and groupers

Generally, fish aren’t considered to be the smartest of marine animals, but moray eels and groupers are an exception. Moray eels and groupers team up as a cooperative and efficient hunting team.

The grouper recruits the moray eel to a hunt by shaking and then performing a headstand to indicate where the prey is hiding in the coral. The moray eel then prises the prey out of the tight space and the grouper quickly catches it in the open ocean. 


They might not seem it, but research has shown that pigs are among the smartest, cleanest domestic animals out there. The mud they roll around in might make you think otherwise, but they actually do this to cool off as they do not have sweat glands.

Pigs have excellent long-term memories and love to interact with others and do not do well by themselves, making them similar to humans. They have also been known to use mirrors in order to find food. 

Emerald anole lizard

The emerald anole lizard might be small but it is incredibly crafty. They always attack their prey from above and researchers wanted to test their adaptation abilities so they put food in a hole with a cap on.

Many of the lizards bit the cap off or they pushed it off with their snouts. Their ability to work through this challenge altered the way that reptiles are perceived as there was a misconception that reptiles acted upon instinct only. 


Individually, ants may not be the smartest of insects, but when they come together with their colony, they are extremely efficient. Ants have an incredible way of smelling different ‘jobs’ on each other so when one can’t smell a food ant, they immediately switch into that job.

Ants tend to have bigger brains than other insects and when they come together with the colony, it’s as if nothing is impossible. This is part of the reason why you never really see a lone ant by themselves. 

Monitor lizards and red-footed tortoises

Monitor lizards are among the smartest reptiles and have shown an ability for problem solving, learning and understanding. In a study, the lizards were presented with clear cubes containing their prey.

The lizards quickly worked out that they had to rotate the tubes to get to the prey. The red-footed tortoises learn off of watching other tortoises. They have social cues which they learn from others and they use environmental landmarks and strategies to find food. 

Jumping spider

Despite the jumping spider’s brain being the size of a sesame seed, it shows a remarkable amount of intelligence. Their vision is excellent and their use their skills to perfectly time their sneaky attacks on prey.

The jumping spiders have an amazing way of finding their prey even if it is hiding and their quick reflexes allow them to move faster than others. Even if they lose physical sight of their food, they continue on their path until they eventually find it, and they do.

Blackspot tuskfish

The blackspot tuckfish is a remarkably resourceful and clever fish. This species of fish typically enjoy preying on crustaceans, snails, and clams, all of which happen to have a hard shell.

In order to get through the shell, the fish use its mouth to hold its prey and repeatedly slam it into a rock until the shell eventually breaks. After the shell is broken the food inside comes out and the fish has a nice meal on its fins. 

Honey bees

Honey bees are actually known to be a clever and valuable species of earth. They live in colonies with a queen and when they sense food, they do a specific dance for their fellow bees. The official name for this is the waggle dance and it directs the colony to the food source.

Scientists also discovered that bees can also count, add and subtract after showing them that blue meant addition and yellow meant subtraction. The results were astounding. 

Manta rays

Out of all the fish in the sea, the manta ray have the biggest brains. The majestic creatures have sections of their brain that the intelligence capacity is larger than average. To humans, they are curious and friendly and when presented with a mirror, unlike other animals, inspect themselves, instead of thinking it is another manta ray.

Manta rays will go out of their way to interact with others in the ocean, showing their social skills and overall understanding of physical beings. 

New Zealand robins

While human men can’t seem to understand what women want, the New Zealand robins seem to do quite well with this. They are excellent at reading their mate’s behavior and understand what she wants to eat and when.

Quite similarly to us, the females like to change up their meals which leaves the robins trying to accommodate their appetites. Most times, the robin gets his mate’s food cravings spot on, something that human males should probably learn from!


The brains of squirrels are mostly shown when they bury their food. If the squirrel senses that someone may be watching, it would pretend to bury the food but actually hide it somewhere on its body.

After this, it would actually run off elsewhere to bury the food. As for finding their food, squirrels were excellent at problem solving and actually found their food quite easily. Although they are seen as pests, squirrels are actually smart animals.


For centuries, horses have been adored and appreciated by humans. Owning a horse has always been a status symbol as they are considered prestigious animals. Horses and humans have developed a special relationship and deep understanding of one another, one of the reasons why humans can ride them in racing.

Horses can understand different symbols, signals and communicate in certain ways. Horses have been known to understand stable bolts in order to free themselves from fields and are fast learners in training. 

Rats and mice

The reason that rats have been used by scientists in labs is due to the fact they are smart and social, just like humans. Rats have been known to be altruistic as a result of being social beings.

In experiments, rats learned how to free their mate from a trap and even shared their chocolate with the others. The small rodents can have feelings of joy or even become depressed, but they thoroughly enjoyed being tickled by humans. 


It has been said that cat brains are more advanced than dog brains in certain situations. A cat’s cerebral cortex which processes information, makes decisions and solves problems is incredibly complex and has 140 million more neurons than dogs.

Cats are quite impulsive and have been known to get themselves into bizarre situations. In addition, owners will quite happily let their cats roam the streets while they are out and they will come home without a problem.


There is a reason dogs are truly man’s best friend. Dogs are incredibly smart and their unique bond with humans are part of the reason they are valued in police forces, search and rescue, guiding the blind and support. As much as we take care of dogs, they also take care of us.

Dogs have the ability to solve problems on their own, understand how others are feeling and respond accordingly and communicate with others, showing their cognitive abilities. 


They might be clear and squishy, but octopuses are incredibly smart animals. They, together with squid and cuttlefish are the smartest invertebrates around. Many aquariums have struggled in keeping octopus in their enclosures as they are so crafty and have regularly found a way out of them.

They can open jars, solve puzzles and are always curious creatures. Octopuses have been known to use coconut shells as hideouts in the ocean, often carrying them along the sea floors and uses them as shields. 


Racoons might be an absolute pain at the best of times, but their crafty and annoying nature stems from the fact they are very intelligent. They are always running into houses to steal food and forever scavenging in trash cans, smelling food from miles away.

When racoons smell food, they will pretty much stop at nothing until they get it. This is why you will often find them hiding in the strangest of places, waiting for the moment the coast is clear to get to food. 


While they are not apes and don’t have the same intelligence level as them, baboons are smart in their own way. They have an understanding of numbers and math when put to the test by researchers. They are extremely social animals, always seen in packs and capable of both friendship and strategic interactions.

They have been known to keep long term relationships with other baboons who are not their family. Baboons are able to adapt to certain situations and different environments well. 

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins use vocal learning to develop their own vocal signature and communicate with other dolphins. They each get an individual identity through this and they have a whistle which is the equivalent to calling someone by name.

Dolphins form social attachments and will help ill or injured members of the pod. Dolphins have also been known to team up with humans to catch fish as they know this is some of their best chance of a lot of food.


Chimpanzees and humans are incredibly similar, not only do we share about 99 percent of our DNA, but they are our closest living relatives and science has proven we evolved from monkeys. Chimps can live in social communities, adapt to different environments and even learn sign language.

Chimps can make and use tools to feed themselves, being able to consume meat and insects if needed, but they are primarily vegetarians. Chimps and human have been able to interact well throughout time.


Elephants have the biggest brain of any animals and the cortex has as many neurons as the human brain. Elephants have an incredible ability to learn and develop self awareness, they can even see themselves in a mirror, unlike many other animals.

When in the wild, elephants demonstrate helpfulness, compassion, and empathy and their trunks allow them to communicate and show emotion toward other elephants. Elephants are also known to have extraordinary memories and they can memorize the location of watering holes. 

African Grey Parrots

These parrots are thought to be the most clever of their species. They are highly intelligent and studies have proven they possess excellent reasoning abilities and have an understanding of causality.

The birds need exercise and socialization and are often hard to keep occupied which is why they continue to talk for long periods of time. Research has shown that theyhave the mental and emotional capacity of a five year old child, something that is unheard of for other birds.


It has been said that crows are one of the smartest birds and can operate on the level of a seven-year-old child. They have a very advanced photographic memory, remembering where they keep and store objects, as well as where their prey is.

Impressively, they can remember and understand different human faces and even hold grudges against certain people. They understand that every person is unique. In addition, they are able to communicate with one another and warn other crows about impending danger.


Orangutans are truly incredible animals and researchers have observed that they understand the concept of the future and will even make plans for it. They will pile up stones to use at a later time as ammunition and will even make travel plans in advance, mapping out a route and communicating it with other orangutans.

They can grasp sophisticated language and use their facial expressions as body language. They are able to make logical and thoughtful choices that some other primates lack in doing. 

Sea Lions

Mammals including seals and sea lions have large brains relative to their size. Sea Lions are the only animals aside from humans who have the capacity to understand basic logic. It has even been shown that a sea lion in California has impressively solved IQ tests.

They are easy animals to train, meaning they are a favorite in aquariums due to the fact they understand and have relationships with humans. The military have also used sea lions in missions of protection. 


They might not seem like the smartest animals, but chickens actually have a very complex brain which is separated into left and right, just like humans, possessing different capabilities. Chickens will organize themselves into social groups, will communicate with one another using 24 distinct noises and are excellent at solving problems.

Chickens also have some degree of self control, studies have shown they will refuse food if they know there is more available later. Chickens have also been known to do basic math. 


Ducks are not just very cute birds, they are also very intuitive. Just hours after hatching, ducklings will imprint upon the first mother figure they see which will determine which other duck, or other animal, is their mother and will take care of them.

The ducklings will then follow this mother figure around until they grow and learn to fend for themselves and find food themselves. This mental capacity is often associated with primates and shows a deeper level of intelligence. 


You see sheep in fields and they don’t actually do much, but it turns out that they are very smart animals. They have exceptional memories and strong facial recognition abilities. A study showed that sheep can remember 50 individual faces for a period of two years or more.

Amazingly, they can also get themselves out of mazes and can establish loyal friendships and will look out for those sheep. They will also intervene during fights and stick up for weaker sheep.


While dogs are known to be smart, wolves are also smart. Wolves understand human communication including pointing and eye contact, but unlike their domesticated cousins, they don’t care about humans and don’t perform well in tasks that requires human engagement.

Having said that, Wolves work very well in packs, maintain a hierarchy and will protect their pack no matter what. They have an incredible way of communicating with one another and understand their environment and how to survive in it. 


Gorillas are considered highly intelligent animals. The apes have been seen using sticks to gauge water depth, bamboo for ladders to help the infants climb and they have even used sticks to eat ants without being stung by them.

Gorillas have very impressive communication abilities and have been recorded making over 25 different sounds to communicate with one another. A captive gorilla, Koko, was taught sign language from when she was one years old, by 40 she knew about 1,000 signs. 


Penguins are some of the most intelligent birds in a way that differs from others within the species. They hunt in packs and use team tactics to successfully catch fish. They heard them on to the water’s surface which is said to be three times more efficient that hunting alone.

In the winter months, Emperor penguins in the North Pole form a colony and huddle together in order to keep warm during the lethal temperatures. They can find a water source to feed from hundreds of miles away.


Cheetah’s aren’t only the fastest animal on the planet, but they also have some very crafty brains. Cheetah’s can reach 0 to 60 m.p.h. in an absurdly quick three seconds. This makes them have a massive advantage in catching their prey.

Cheetahs have exceptional eyesight to scan surroundings before stalking their prey. Cheetahs are a sociable animal and are often found in groups consisting of mother and young cubs. They hunt during the day to avoid competition from predators including lions, hyenas and leopards. 


As a popular domesticated animal, rabbits are quite intelligent. They are able to memorize, solve problems and react to cues. In the wild, rabbits are excellent at hiding from predators which is aided by their ability to dig burrows, their superb hearing and exceptional eyesight.

Rabbits are able to adapt to things through repetition meaning they are quite an easy animal to train in the home. Rabbit have a strong body language and different facial expressions for subtle emotion changes.


Falcons are highly intelligent which makes them an easily trainable bird. They have been used for centuries in hunting and are the most powerful birds of prey. They are the fastest birds on earth and have been clocked at speeds between 200-200 mph.

The intelligence and prominence of the falcon has made them a status symbol, specifically sought after in the Arabian Peninsula by wealthy sheiks. They have exceptional powers of vision and have been measured at 2.6 times stronger than a human.

Polar Bears

Polar bears have shown great intelligence through their hunting of seals in the arctic. Their knowledge of the sea and ice is so precise that they know the exact moment they will be able to catch their prey.

They rely on the scent left by the sweat glands on their paws to track other bears but other than that, they are predominantly solitary creatures. They are increasingly hard to track so scientists have been forced to put trackers in them. 

Sea Otters

Sea Otters are the largest members of the weasel family and are incredibly craft and resourceful creatures. They have been known to use tools such as stone to hammer abalone shells off the rocks to crack open and prey upon.

Sea Otters learn from one another and develop the use of tools quite early on in their lives. In one test, Sea Otters could open a tupperware using their paws, something so many other animals did not understand. 


Whales are truly majestic creatures who glide through the ocean so beautifully. They have complex social lives within their schools. Sperm whales communicate with one another in local dialects, quite similar to humans, as well as being able to learn from each other.

Whales often demonstrate altruistic behavior with humpback whales objecting to orcas killing gray whale calves. The complex issues between them is seen as intelligence by scientists.