Animals are smarter than we often give them credit for.
Despite not being able to speak the same language or even create the same sounds with our mouths, humanity has found a way to communicate with multiple species.
While we may not know their exact thoughts, many animals are thinking complex series of thoughts on the same level as human toddlers.
Top 20 Smartest Animals In The World
Smart animals come in all different sizes from vastly different habitats, some calling the African plains home and others residing in deep blue seas.
Although some animals may not seem to have much going on behind their eyes, all of these animals are capable of creating complex thoughts and problem-solving patterns in order to survive in their daily lives.
Elephants are animals that are best known for their impressive memories and incredibly high level of emotional intelligence.
These massive animals are so intelligent that they are able to distinguish different human languages.
In a study conducted by the University of Sussex, researchers recorded two men saying the same sentence in two different languages.
One man was from a local ethnic group, the Maasai, that had a history of killing wild elephants and the other local man was from an ethnic group, the Kamba, that didn’t have a history of killing elephants.
When the Maasai man said, “Look over there, a group of elephants is coming,” the elephants became more defensive and huddled together nervously.
The Kamba man saying the same line didn’t invoke any kind of reaction from the elephants.
Elephants have learned what words lead to bad things for their herd, no matter what language they are hearing.
These animals’ ability to remember human words is only one of many of their special talents that can be attributed to their intelligence.
Chimpanzees can often be spotted acting like little humans all over the internet, driving around kiddie cars and taking care of smaller animals like dogs or rabbits.
They’re capable of having a large range of emotions and the ability to create relationships with animals of different species and to communicate clearly with each other and humans.
Chimpanzees are about as smart as a five-year-old child, often mimicking the way young children spend their days.
These animals are capable of laughing while playing, crying as they grieve.
They get jealous when someone else gets what they want and use touch as a way to show other members of their troop that they care.
Not only are chimps able to identify different objects, but they’re also capable of giving logical names to objects.
These names have been identified by humans by teaching chimpanzees American Sign Language.
Pigs are considered to be the fifth smartest species on the planet, which makes them even more intelligent than dogs.
Similar to dogs, pigs are capable of remembering cause-and-effect and have an excellent sense of direction.
Their sense of direction feeds into their ability to remember what has happened at certain locations, especially when it comes to finding or receiving food.
Even if a pig travels a long distance away, they’re able to easily trot their way back home.
When compared to humans, pigs are about as smart as three-year-old children.
Pigs understand the importance of hygiene, despite being big fans of rolling around in the mud.
They will collect trash in certain areas that are far away enough from their sleeping area and wherever they eat most commonly.
The mud helps keep them cool in the hotter months and helps them prevent and heal sunburns.
Rats are the smartest rodents in the world, despite the tiny size of their bodies and brains.
Like other common pets, rats have exhibited preferences for activities and people.
When rats are happy about their company, they will purr like a cat or even let out a high-pitched, squeaky giggle.
Rats don’t make their decisions blindly, but instead, they make their decisions based on what they do or do not know, which is referred to as metacognition.
Unlike other species of common house rodents like rabbits or guinea pigs, rats are incredibly easy to train and are often eager to please.
Most rat owners find that the best way to train your rat is to start by teaching it what its name is and to come to you when you call it.
Once a rat has been rewarded enough times, it will quickly begin to mimic the desired behavior.
The more tricks you teach a rat, the happier your rat will become because of the increased mental stimulation and the chance to earn more rewards.
Dogs can be just as intelligent as they are loyal, which is why they’ve become the perfect companions for humans.
Man’s best friends are able to remember cause-and-effect situations, possess problem-solving skills, and even learn English.
Their ability to complete complex, chained commands has given dogs multiple purposes throughout civilization that have been ingrained into their DNA.
There are dogs for hunting, herding, guarding, and even sniff-work.
To see the peak of what a dog’s intelligence can be, take a glance at service dogs and their necessary skills.
These dogs are taught to do things that humans can’t, such as smell upcoming seizures and hear heart problems.
The newest trend for dog owners online is to begin teaching them to use English words through buttons that the dogs can press.
One of the dogs to popularize this trend is Bunny the Sheepadoodle, known as @whataboutbunny on Instagram and TikTok.
Parrots are best known for their ability to learn English and repeat it back with eerie accuracy.
Thanks to their genes, parrots are capable of complex cognition and have a brain development pattern that is similar to human development.
They are incredibly social animals that need to have other creatures to communicate with and spend time around.
Otherwise, they fall into a deep depression.
Scientists have been studying the connection between their brain development and their lifetime.
There are 344 different genes that are associated with these two different traits, with different parrot species seeing different levels of complexity.
There are 30 different species of parrots that are seen to have similar brain development as humans.
Parrots can do more than just talk, with other common acts of intelligence including using tools and having a great sense of object permanence.
They remember around 100 words, sometimes more, and they can learn to talk about all sorts of situations.
While goats may not seem like the smartest animals in the barnyard, they actually have an impressive memory and a complex social structure.
Goats are seen as being just as smart as whales, dolphins, and other ultra-smart animals.
To prove the intelligence of goats, researchers from the Queen Mary University of London teamed up with the Institute of Agricultural Science in Switzerland to put goats to the test with a challenge designed by primate researchers.
The researchers placed fruit inside a plastic box and made the goats use their teeth to pull a rope and then use their noses to lift another lever up.
Out of the 12 goats that took part in this examination, nine of them were able to learn the trick after only four tries.
The nine goats that were able to learn the trick were tested 10 months later and nearly all of them were able to get the fruit in around a minute.
Only one goat was unable to remember how to get the fruit.
Dolphins are often credited as being one of the smartest animals in the world, with their ability to solve complex problems, maintain a complex social structure, understand human interactions, and even teach other complex tasks taught to them by humans.
A dolphin’s brain weighs a little over 3.5 pounds on average, which means that dolphins have one of the largest brain-to-body ratios which is second only to the human’s brain-to-body ratio.
Unlike humans and primates, dolphins process language and auditory information in their temporal lobes.
What gives dolphins their remarkable ability to understand and read the emotions of those around them is their highly developed paralimbic systems.
The complexity of these ocean mammals’ brains is what gives them their unique emotional intelligence.
Their brains give them the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors, understand the meaning of symbol-based communication, create their own cultures, and understand abstract thoughts.
9. New Caledonian Crows
Although all crows, ravens, and rooks are smarter than most other birds, the New Caledonian crow is the smartest out of the bunch.
One crow named Betty was the crow that represented the New Caledonian crows during a test to see how well crows could use tools.
For the test, scientists at Oxford University took a piece of meat and put it down a tube that was too wide for Betty to fit in.
She decided to take a piece of wire that was left in her cage and used another nearby object to bend the end of the wire.
Betty had used the object in the cage as a tool to create another tool out of the piece of wire, creating a hook that she then used to get the food out of the thin tube.
However, Betty isn’t the only New Caledonian crow to begin using tools.
Scientists have seen wild New Caledonian crows using twigs and other goods they’ve foraged as hooked tools to get the things they want that they can’t reach.
Gorilla troops are extremely complex social structures that gorillas have formed over time to ensure their safety against all of their natural predators.
They have a powerful sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
There is no gorilla that is better known for its intelligence than Koko the Gorilla.
Koko knew more than 1,000 signs and knew more than 2,000 spoken words.
The western lowland gorilla was used as the mascot for animal rights, environmental preservation, and was the face of The Gorilla Foundation.
During her 46 years of life, she met all sorts of people and even became close friends with the late actor Robin Williams.
When Koko’s caregivers told her about Robin Williams’s passing, she began to mourn and remained mournful for a long time.
Koko was known for being incredibly caring, even fostering her own kittens.
Koko began learning sign language when she was incredibly young after being sent to Penny Patterson.
She had been rejected by her mother because she had fallen ill soon after her birth.
Little did Patterson know that she was starting Koko on the road to stardom.
Cats have always been known for being brighter than dogs thanks to their ability to remain independent even after domestication.
Their stronger sense of intelligence can also be attributed to their more impressive memory than dogs.
Cats are able to remember the events of a day for up to 16 hours, which makes their memory 200 times better than dogs.
Although dogs may be the better servants of humanity, cats’ brains are vastly more complex.
Cats have 300 neurons going off in their brains, but dogs only have 160 neurons.
A cat’s stronger intelligence is what makes it a less efficient worker.
Dogs aren’t smart enough to question why they’re doing something.
They only know what happens when they do a certain task or action.
Cats are well aware that nothing happens if they don’t do as they’re told, so they continue doing what they want to until there’s something beneficial about doing as they’re told by humans.
Octopuses are one of the smartest creatures in the ocean, which may have to do with the fact that octopuses have more than one brain.
Each of their legs and their body has its own brain that is responsible for moving each limb and communicating with the other brains.
Like dolphins, octopuses have impressive brain-to-body ratios.
Their brains are larger compared to their bodies than any other invertebrate and larger than most other invertebrates in their entirety.
They are also one of the few invertebrates to learn how to use tools.
Octopuses frequently use the approximately 500 million collective neurons inside their donut-shaped brains.
Orangutans are one of the primates on the planet and have the unique talent of being able to talk about the past.
Displaced reference, or the ability to talk about things or events that are not physically present, is a unique trait for orangutans that is only shared with humans.
In a study conducted by the University of Saint Andrew’s in Scotland, orangutans were tested by seeing how they would respond within their group when they think they have seen nearby predators.
The predators in question were actually just scientists who were dressed up as some of their most common predators.
When the orangutans would see the scientists, they first would become overwhelmed with fear for a moment before they began hiding their young and warning the other orangutans to what they had just seen.
Raccoons are smart, sneaky, conniving little creatures and anyone who has ever had to try to keep them from getting into their trash knows just how good these masked mammals are at problem solving.
They’ve learned how to get around a multitude of human-made solutions to get to some of their favorite treats.
On average, a raccoon has 438 million neurons in its small brain.
To test their problem-solving skills, scientists have performed the Aesop test.
The Aesop test has food floating at the bottom of a tub of water that is too shallow for the raccoons to reach.
The scientists then showed the raccoons that they could raise the water level by placing stones in the container of water.
The tested raccoons were able to quickly understand the relationship between dropping the stone and the water rising.
This allowed them to be rewarded with marshmallows.
Squirrels may not seem like some of the smartest animals in the forest, but they have an incredible memory and are able to trick other animals.
Not only are squirrels able to remember where they’ve hidden their spoils even after hibernation, but they are also known to set traps for other foragers who may try to steal their food.
The squirrel digs deep into the ground when it knows that other rodents and birds are watching it.
It will then fill the hole with bogus food like rocks or rotten foods, allowing its onlookers to come and investigate the hole.
While they try going after the fake food archive, the squirrel is given more time to hide its real food stash in secret.
Pigeons may not seem like they have any thoughts behind their blank stares, but they are actually one of the few types of birds that can recognize themselves in the mirror.
There was once a time when people would use pigeons to deliver messages because of their excellent sense of direction.
Pigeons are even able to decipher photographs.
When asked to tell two people apart in a photograph, pigeons have proven to understand the difference between people even when they aren’t physically there.
There have even been pigeons that are capable of telling each letter of the alphabet apart, proving that pigeons may not be as dumb as everyone seems to think.
They’re mentally closer to parrots than any other bird, excluding crows.
Otters are more than just cute faces.
They’re animals with complex social structures and a strong sense of curiosity.
There are two different social groups of which otters will be a part: families and clans.
Families consist of mothers and their young that band together to defend themselves from predators and gather the resources they need in order to survive.
Clans are groups of adult males that will only return to their families when it is time to mate.
Otters use a unique type of communication to express where their territory is, which is called olfaction.
They will rub their scent onto their bedding sites, dens, rolling sites, haulouts, and digging.
Whales such as the humpback whale have more cortical convolutions and surface area than humans.
These titans of the deep ocean have the largest brains on the planet, but that doesn’t always mean that they’re the smartest.
An adult male sperm whale’s brain is about 488.19 cubic inches in size while a human’s brain is just 79.33 cubic inches.
When compared to its closest land-dwelling relative, the hippopotamus, scientists believe that whales’ need to communicate efficiently and their constant need to socialize has allowed their intelligence to advance quickly over their evolution.
The barnyard is filled with intelligent creatures that humanity has convinced to work alongside them.
With intelligence similar to that of a dog, horses stand out for their ability to understand verbal and visual cues they receive from humans.
Horses are able to understand and remember complex sequences, which is often shown off at equestrian events.
When communicating with other horses, these noble creatures prefer to use their ears and body language.
Horses also have impressive memories, which are normally reserved for remembering and avoiding painful experiences.
Because of their ability to remember painful experiences for years, horses are easily traumatized.
20. Capuchin Monkeys
Capuchin monkeys are the smartest New World monkeys and are often considered to be on the same intellectual level as chimpanzees.
Their ability to learn and memorize tasks has earned them many roles throughout Hollywood.
Scientists are also intrigued by capuchin monkeys thanks to their ability to create and use their own tools.
Capuchin monkeys have been spotted using rocks to crack nuts, making them one of the few species of animals to use such basic tools.
Their pleasant personalities have also earned them a place as a reliable option for those looking for a service animal.
When given the opportunity to learn, capuchin monkeys have proven capable of even more complex tasks than a service dog.