Meet The Most Intelligent Animals

Have you ever looked at your dog or cat, and thought that they were very smart? You may be right but do you know how smart? Research has shown that many animals in nature are smarter than we thought, and have incredible abilities in reasoning, logic, deduction, memory and more. You’ll be surprised and shocked at some of the things these animals can do. You may think a horse or an otter is smart, but what a squid? Read on and see these 25 smartest animals on earth.

1. Sea Lions

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Sea lions are often seen at aquariums performing tricks, and it’s not surprise, because sea lions are some of the most intelligent mammals around. Scientists have found that their brains weigh more than 1.5 pounds, and in 2016, scientists even mapped the sea lion brain. Sea lions’ intelligence even helds the U.S. Naval Service, as sea lions have been trained to find sea mines, swimmers, and even test objects during dives. Sea lions have amazing logical thinking capabilities, and sea lions like Rio, who lives at the University of California Santa Cruz, have passed reasoning tests.


2. Sheep

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For years sheep were thought of dumb animals, but scientists have discovered that assumption is wrong. Scientists studying sheep’s intelligence at the University of Cambridge found that sheep have intelligence levels that may be similar to humans. Not only can sheep adapt to a new situation easily, but they also have the ability to map their location in their head. Some sheep have been known to even respond to their name, or recognize when you’re talking to them, scientists have found. Sheep can recognize faces, react to a variety of facial expressions, and even use memory to navigate their way around.


3. Pigs

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If you’ve ever wondered why anyone could keep a pig for a pet, here’s why: they’re really intelligent. It seems that Charlotte’s Web wasn’t too far off, as pigs have the same mental capacity as a three-year old human child. A 2015 study called “Thinking Pigs; examined the complex mental processes of the pig and even found that pigs who taught to anticipate an event could teach others in the pen to do the same. The study also looked at the emotional intelligence of pigs, and found that pigs can have positive and negative responses to incidents.


4. Elephants

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 Elephants continue to be one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. These beasts may be large, but their brains are big too; in fact, they have the biggest brains of any other animal that lives on land. The complexity of the elephant brain mimics that of the human brain with as many neurons, but elephants also have great emotional intelligence as well.  Elephants can recognize when another elephant is sick or upset, and will aid the animal. The animals can learn and even recognize themselves in mirrors, and have their own form of communication by seismic waves. Not only that, but they also bury their dead, which only one other creature does: humans.


5. Pigeons


They may seem bothersome but pigeons are very intelligent. Pigeons have been used as messengers for their ability to geolocate, especially in times of war, however, they were also used as aerial photographers in the 1900’s.  One of the most interesting uses for pigeons has been as lifesavers by navy researchers. The scientists were able to train pigeons to identify life jackets by color — red or yellow — and then spot survivors who need rescuing. Known as Project Sea Hunt, the study was unfortunately ended due to budget cuts, but it showed how smart pigeons really were.


6. Squid

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Squids, like other Cephalopods, are similar to humans, and some even believe that humans were descended from these invertebrates. While that’s still be studied, squids are similar to us in other ways. Our brain cells have the same composition, and have been used by scientists to study the human brain’s functions. Squids have been shown to be able to solve puzzles, use tools and recently, scientists have learned that squids can edit their RNA to make proteins.


7. Cats

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Cats are agile, quick on their feet, and smart. Felines have incredible memory-retaining skills, which explains why the news is full of stories about cats returning home after being lost for years. Cats may not like it, but they can be trained to perform tricks, and scientists believe that they hone their abilities over time. Scientists have found that even though dogs have a higher social IQ, the cats can solve cognitive problems and can even train us to do things for them; any cat owner can attest to the fact that cats know exactly how to get us to do what they want.


8. African Gray Parrots

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The University of Vienna did a study on the intelligence of African Gray parrots and found that they can make correct inferences on the location of food with deduction and elimination after audio and visual cus, a task that a human three-year-old child can do. The birds abstract reasoning is impressive, as is their vocabulary; some parrots have been known to have over 800 words and under their tense. African Gray parrots are incredible mimics and are able to replicate doorbells, doors, beeps, alarms and other sounds.


9. Squirrels

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Squirrels get a bad rap as dumb animals, but they’re actually quite smart. The squirrel is able to plan ahead for the winter, and recall exactly where it buried a nut several months earlier. Squirrels can even fake burying their nuts to draw attention away from their real hiding spots. Another sign of squirrel intelligence is their tails: they use it as a way to communicate with other squirrels if they’re in distress and can run in erratic patterns to outsmart predators.


10. Dolphins

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There’s a reason you see so many dolphins at the aquariums around the world and that’s because dolphins are very intelligent so they’re easy to train. Research has shown that dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors, and can even associate a part of their anatomy with that of a human, i.e. wave a flipper when a human waves their arm. Dolphins can solve problems and even follow directions like in a recipe.


11. Falcons

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Falcons are considered one of the most easily-trained birds and have been helping humans for centuries. These birds can be used to hunt, and can obey commands, even to retrieve prey for their handler. One aspect of the falcon’s intelligence comes from their amazing memory, which lets them return to their handler after completing a task. Long ago, these birds were used just like pigeons to carry messages.


12. Horses

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Horses have been part of our lives for centuries, and we’re still discovering how intelligent they really are. Equines can not only learn to do tasks, but can read body language, pick up signals, and respond to commands. They have amazing sensory perception, and are able to attribute certain sounds to pleasant or negative experiences. Horses have the ability to communicate with humans through their actions, wiggling their ears or making soft noises to express emotion. A 2017 study at Kobe University found that horses can adjust their behavior to influence humans to do an action, such as retrieve a food that has been hidden.


13. Spiders

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They’re considered creepy and crawly, but spiders are intelligent too. Scientists have found that jumping spiders, for instance, have the ability to think ahead and plan detours if needed when searching out prey. These same spiders can likely visualize a prey’s hiding spot and make adjustments to their hunting process. When it comes to brain mass, some spiders have brains that extend through their legs, and there’s even more to study about their smarts, so who knows what the researchers will discover next?


14. Owls

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Owls have long been a figure of intelligence, starting with the adage “old wise owl.” It seems like the saying is really true, as owls are some of the smartest birds in nature. Owl intelligence shows in their hunting skills as they possess extraordinary abilities to detect and hone in on their prey, and navigate their surroundings. Some bird fans hate the fact that owls can’t be trained to perform tasks, but that’s yet to be proven thoroughly, as you can see trained owls in some bird shows.


15. Rats

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Long used as test subjects for a variety of topics, rats have been one of the science world’s favorite smart animals. Rats can pick up training fairly quickly, and are just as intelligent as dogs with great problem-solving skills. Countless studies have shown that rats can navigate mazes, react to responses, learn tricks, and more. Rats’ emotional intelligence is high too, as they can recognize distress among their fellow rats and they have a wide range of communication signals including audio, visual, and even touch.


16. Dogs

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It’s a given that dogs would land on the list, because we’ve been training dogs for years to do tricks and perform tasks. Researchers have found that dogs have the intelligence level of a two-year-old child, and can understand over 200 gestures and words. Some dog breeds are naturally smarter than others, but overall, dogs are intelligent. Not only can dogs show reason and logical thinking, but they can even deceive humans which means they can think of a desired thing and then deduce what they have to do to get it. Memory, scent, recognition, emotional intelligence are just a few parts of the smarts of a dog. Smart dog breeds include Border Collie, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds and Beagles.


17. Crows

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Crows can actually be eerily smart, and since they’re used often in horror movies, this fact can be unsettling. These birds are able to recognize your face and can conspire with one another to do a task; they do this by communicating to each other with sound. Not only that, but crows also can use tools, solve problems, and even plan events, such as hiding their food — their great memory allows them to recall what they did with the food easily.


18. Chimpanzees

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Chimpanzees have been called human’s closest relatives, and they certainly have the smarts for that claim. The scientific world is full of studies where chimps were able to do tasks, use tools, recognize objects, play with items, learn words, and communicate. One chimp, Nastasha, left scientists startled over her intelligence. She was able to manipulate situations, play pranks, use sign language and even pretend to be busy to alleviate boredom. Natasha is referred to as a “chimp genius” in the scientific community, and is a wonder to many.


19. Octopus

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Months ago, the news heard the story of Inky, an enterprising octopus who escaped from his cage, slipped through a gap, and slithered to freedom in a drain that led to the ocean. It sounded like a subplot from the movie Finding Dory but it was real. An Australian study found that octopi can hoard shells to construct a fort, and use other objects as tools. Like the squids, octopi have huge brains, and we’re still discovering all that they’re capable of, but what we’ve discovered is fascinating. Scientists have uncovered that octopi have “brains” in their tentacles which allows them to use them in all kinds of ways. Studies show that octopi can work their way through mazes and do problem solving.


20. Otters

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Otters are cute and playful, but they’re also very smart, actually one of the smartest species around. First, otters have the ability to use tools, as they have been known to carry a rock to break open mollusks, and they can even tell when the clams they want to eat are carrying a poisonous material. Scientists are finding that otter intelligence can match that of dolphins, and that they can be taught tricks like stacking cups. One clever otter at a zoo has even mastered how to use a vending machine, which could prove troublesome for his weight and the keepers.


21. Racoons

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If you’ve ever had to pick up your trash can after a late-night raid by a racoon, you know exactly how intelligent raccoons can be. Racoons can quickly learn how to open a trash can or its lid, open a door, and do other tasks to get to food. Scientists think racoon intelligence is why the animal population has flourished despite humans continually threatening their habitat  — they think we may be making the racoon smarter, because they’re adapting to their changing situations.


22. Parrots

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It’s time to maybe rethink that term “bird brain.” Not just African Gray parrots are smart, but parrots overall are pretty intelligent. Researchers have found that their intelligence as at the rate of a 5-year-old child, which is pretty impressive. Parrots can be taught to ride mini bikes, whistle tunes, answer questions, find hidden treats and more. That’s not all, because parrots also have great flight navigation ability, the ability to use tools, mimic sounds, and do problem solving. Parrots can display object permanence as well, which is a skill that a human child doesn’t learn until they’re at least 2 years or older.


23. Orangutan

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Another member of the primate family that’s smart is the orangutan. Like the chimp, they can use tools, and they can learn how to use tools, such as the way to saw wood. They’re able to communicate in sign language, and they pass knowledge down to their offspring quickly.

Is this any wonder, however? Orangutans share over 90% of our — human — genetic material. Scientists say that the patient nature of the orangutan — unlike that of their cousin, the ape — lets them have incredible problem solving abilities. One research group at Camp Leakey even observed the animals displaying self-grooming skills similar to humans with actions like washing with soap, washing clothes, bathing, and even brushing their teeth, all through just watching and observing. It’s more than just mimicry, it’s actually applying a skill learned that observation, and that’s the reason that we still have way more to study about primate behavior and intelligence.


24. Ants

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Okay, so ants are technically insects, but they’re still smart creatures. We all know that ants can build anthills, and they do that by working together which shows coordination and planning abilities. What’s more though is that ants have a great ability to work through their traffic, make decisions and do other impressive things. One Amazonian ant species has been found to actually reproduce through cloning sometimes, and was identified as all-female.

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