Top 15 Smartest Animals-Intelligence revisited

We live in a world that’s home to a variety of species that coexist maintaining an ecological balance. Humans have evolved over the years to become the most intelligent species that ever existed. Numerous animal intelligence experiments conducted let us know, we can’t foresee the brilliance and smartness with which other animals live. So, lets go about unraveling the mysterious, yet marvelous facts about animals’ intelligence.

15) Ants


These tiny creatures are very well known for their hardworking nature, in particular for organized teamwork displayed in carrying heavy food.

What not many of us know is that ants build cities that have complex transportation networking paths, ventilation, and certain chambers, where they carry out farming! That’s right. Ants grow fungus on leaves. They also raise and keep other insects for farming just like human beings. All this began millions of years ago, way before humans did.

Ants also wage war against rival ant colonies. The planning, organization, and coordination involved is a trait of intelligence of course. But what’s more surprising is the fact that the winning colonies of ants enslave the defeated colonies and get some work done by them, unlike other animals that go on fighting until either of them dies or retreats. In addition, ant robotics is becoming extremely popular in artificial intelligence, wherein robots communicate via markings  just like ants do by leaving trails. 

14) Sheep  


For centuries, sheep were considered dim-witted animals, that follow their flock. The way they slowly munch food is often mocked and people are teased to be ‘sheepish’ when they’re slow in doing things. But sheep are far smarter than they are given credit for.

Firstly they’ve amazing face recognition skills and can remember up to 50 faces for 2 years. Second, react when called by their names and to know when a new sheep is added to the flock. Third, they’ve great route mapping skills, that is to say when left even in the most complex maze and they’ll figure out a way to reach home.

Some consider them to be helpless and incapable if defending themselves. This is not at all true. In reality, sheep look out for each other and have a strong relationship with their peers. They care for their offspring. They’re also found to be very expressive. Markedly they express fear, boredom, anger, despair, and happiness. Their learning abilities match that of monkeys. Sheep are often used for scientific experiments in finding the cure to diseases like Huntington’s as their brains are similar to ours!

13) Pigeons


If you think these are just like any other average birds, this will change your opinion. Pigeons possess smart abilities to deal with things. They can count items. Can recognize themselves in a mirror. What’s interesting is to note that, they can recognize themselves even in a video recording with 7 seconds of delay. They have special ‘homing instincts’, meaning they can reach home no matter how far they go and even when blindfolded. Furthermore they’ve eyesight better than that of human beings. Pigeons are very well known for their categorizing abilities. In an experiment conducted, 128 photographs were to be categorized into 16 different classes based on certain similarities that they were trained for. As a matter of fact they successfully categorized not only different  forms of  paintings but also categorised it based on its artists.

12) Cats


Cats are considered less smart than man’s best friend, dogs. On the contrary, cats are known to have a better short-term memory than dogs. Cats do hunt, care for their young ones, and find a safe place for themselves. They are usually not put in a situation wherein they can exhibit their intelligence. When trained, cats can skateboard like Acro cats and hunt down mice in thousands of numbers. Another key point is that cats use public transportation at times.

In ships, cats are kept to get rid of mice. One such famous Navy boat, U-boat also employed a cat which took leave on reaching the shore but was always reached the boat on time before it left.

11) Squirrel


Squirrels are quick learners, capable of learning by observation, and adaptable animals. They have very good memory. They bury nuts in networks of thousands of holes. To keep them safe, they also keep them shifting from one hole to another. In addition they’ve quality control process involved while picking cherries.

They indulge in fakery to save the nuts from being stolen. Studies show that one-fifth of holes made are fake and this rate increases when they are being watched. They have two kinds of alarms- one ‘Whistle’, for avian predators, hearing which all squirrels get into their burrows, second, ‘trill’, for ground predators, hearing which squirrels watch out for danger in  their surroundings.

10) Rats


Most popular lab animals, not because of their common existence but because of their complex social structure resembling that of humans. These creatures can count, are adaptable and have a very good memory. They can also navigate complex routes easily.

Rats communicate through smell, touch, and frequencies we can’t hear. They also respond when called by their names. They are altruistic creatures. When all rats were caged and the food was made available to them they chose to free the rats first and then ate the food together.

9) Otters


These smallest marine mammals, live in cold waters and are mainly land animals. They are one of the smartest animals. The ways in which animals use tools is associated with animal intelligence. Otters can break open hard seashells. Occasionally they are seen using rock as a hammer to crack open food or prey. They can sense predators approaching by the change in water vibration. Otters have existed for over millions of years now and are on the verge of danger, humans beings being their main predators.

8) Octopus


Octopuses are the smartest Invertebrates ever known. They’ve many intelligent ways of defending themselves from predators. They expel ink, camouflage with surroundings also has learned to copy other animals so that they can escape from danger.

Octopuses are known to have both short term and long term memories. They’ve also mastered the most difficult mazes. They’ve exceptional navigation skills. They not only find a safe place to live but also keep track of dangerous places to avoid.

7) Parrot


This bird is well known for its ability to mimic human voice. But it also has other less obvious talents. African grey parrots are the brightest and can locate hidden food, by applying strategic deduction and elimination methods. They are said to have the same level of intelligence as that of a four-year-old.

In an experiment, two opaque glasses of food were presented before parrots. From one food was taken out in front of them. When they were asked to pick the glass containing food, over the course, parrots were able to find out.

6) Crow


Members of the corvid family, known for being the cleverest birds. They have reasoning, tool-making abilities and can distinguish people. The problem-solving ability possessed by crows is in fact on par with that of five-year-old. Their tool making ability is on par with that of chimpanzees. They are clever, patient birds, that wait for nuts thrown on roads to be cracked by the vehicles.

In an experiment, there were two wires kept in front of two crows. One bent in the form of a  hook and another straight. One crow picked the bent wire to take out the food from a jar. Looking at this the other crow, bent the straight wire in the form of a hook and took out the food.

5) Pigs


It’s stereotypical to say pigs are dirty and dumb. They, in fact, prefer cleanliness and are very smart animals. Pigs outperformed a three-year-old human child in a cognitive test. They have long-term memories and are skilled at mazes. When trained, they learn various skills quickly and are one of the best animals to domesticate. They are emotionally and socially sophisticated.

Pigs can distinguish between the pigs they’ve seen and the strange ones. In an experiment, a group of trained pigs was put with naive pigs, and a happy song was played. The trained pigs reacted differently because of discomfort.

4) Elephants


The biggest land animal also has the biggest brain and is incredibly smart. They are found in the African and Asian regions. The animal that is known for having the longest memory is elephants. They remember the routes to watering holes no matter how long it is.

Elephants can understand human language and even mimic human voices. It is also found that they can recognize 12 different types of tones and even recreate it. And yes, there is an elephant band! Experiments show they can distinguish between human age, gender and ethnicity by a human voice.

They are social animals, that show empathy towards each other and often seen comforting other elephants in distress. They are among the few animals that grieve while mourning the death of other members of the group.

3) Boarder Collie dog


The most intelligent dog breed whose major work was to herd sheep. It is one of the hardest things to do as one must always look out for sheep to be in a place shown by the owner, adapt to changing terrain and doing all of that without killing sheep. At the same time, they need to watch out for further commands by their owner. Large gaps between their shoulder blades make crouching easier for them while herding.

Collies were bred to be independent, and solve complex problems. They are pretty quick learners and can follow the directions of the whistle and hand signals. They can learn many commands and have a very big vocabulary. Keeping them always engaged is important as they can get bored easily. But when they stay focused they can do anything they set their mind to. I mean anything!

2) Dolphins


Being the smartest aquatic mammal, they are found in the temperate and tropical waters. They are known as cetaceans. Intelligence is often associated with the size of the brain. Among the animals, dolphins have the biggest brain that weighs about 3.5 pounds.

Mirror test was passed by Dolphins, indicating their self-awareness. They form bubble rings just to amuse themselves, use marine sponges to prevent injuries. They have a cooperative and an organized way of hunting fish through their extraordinary communication skills.

Dolphins are among the few animals that show empathy, altruism, and attachment to fellow beings. They’re even found to bring humans to safety when found in the middle of the ocean so that they can breathe. They mourn the death of other dolphins.

Now the question is not about how smart dolphins are but it is if  humans can keep them safe and free them so that we don’t let yet another brilliant creature to become extinct.

1) Chimpanzee


No doubt chimpanzees are smart. The question has always been how smart.

Chimps have genetic DNA match with human beings of up to 96%. Certain studies have also shown that chimps learn faster than human beings. They can communicate with each other just like humans but through sign-languages, vocalizations and facial expressions. When food was kept far from the reach of a chimp with two sticks of smaller sizes, chimp tied them together to form a log stick and take the food.

In front of a mirror they can recognize themselves and are found to clean their body parts that were otherwise unseen! They often take care of chimps that are not biologically their own which is very rarely seen amongst animals. They’ve very good decision making, problem-solving and facial skills that makes them one of the smartest in the animals’ kingdom.

Nature never stops to mesmerize us. Isn’t it? Now we know, why animals are not to be associated with foolishness in any of our conversations. Knowing about animals’ intelligence also gets us wondering if we’ve been looking at intelligence the wrong way all these days.


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Anjana R

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