It wasn’t so long ago that animals weren’t seen as particularly bright beings. Except for maybe chimps and dolphins - we always knew those guys were up to something (taking over the planet? Forming an itty-bitty dolphin committee? Who knows). But now, thanks to YouTube videos and progress in science, we can be pretty certain that animals are, in fact, sentient beings capable of solving tasks, using tools, and even displaying human-like emotions. Now, that said, not all of them are made equally, and some smart animals are even smarter than the rest. Want to meet the most intelligent animals on planet earth? Well then, you’re in luck, for this is our article dedicated to the smartest animals in the world!
Now, in this nifty smart animals list, you’ll absolutely meet the ones that are the most likely contenders. Think bonobos, chimpanzees, dolphins, and crows. However, some contenders might come as a surprise to you! Did you know that honey badgers are also capable of using tools or that pigeons can recognize themselves as well as memorize and differentiate human faces? Pretty impressive, right? That said, animal intelligence might come off on rather different terms from the ones we share as humans, but if you need a comparison to grasp just how smart some of these most intelligent animals are, most of them are just as capable as 4-to-5-year-old human kids, while some exceed it tremendously! That’s so smart, it’s actually a bit spooky.
Now, this list will present the animals ranked by intelligence; however, if you’d like to change it up a bit, give the animals you like the most your vote, and they will find their way to the top of this list. And once you’re done reading, be sure to share this list with your friends!
Not only are elephants big in their stature, but they also tower among others in their intelligence. Known to have excellent memory and displaying human-like emotions, elephants are one of the smartest land animals.
Although they might look like entities from outer space, they have very earthly intelligence. Same as mammals, these cephalopods are known to have the ability to solve complex problems are real escape artists!
They are stubborn and often weird, but that's because the intelligence of a domestic cat compares to that of a 2-year-old human toddler! One interesting thing about cats is that they understand that if an object is out of sight, it doesn't mean it has vanished forever. They do know you've hidden their treats.
These plain-looking birds are nothing but plain when it comes to intelligence. Crows are known to use tools, solve complex problems requiring planning, and are great at communicating. They can also remember the faces of their wrong-doers, so treat them with respect!
Although we're used to seeing them as these cute yet pesky trash burglars, raccoons are actually quite intelligent. In fact, they rank as high as monkeys on intelligence tests! Maybe that's why, no matter the lock you put on your bins, they always find a way to get to the good stuff.
You might not believe this, but experts agree that orcas are more intelligent than dogs! Besides having the second-biggest brains among all ocean animals, they have a definite sense of self, and display various behaviors linked to intelligence.
Sperm whales are one of the very few animals who can recognize themselves! Hopefully, that does not come with human-like attributes like an occasional episode of a low-self esteem. Sperm whales are capable of solving problems, and they can even find people who are lost at sea or pinpoint underwater landmines!
We all know that dogs are smart, but did you know that their intelligence is comparable to that of a 2-year-old human kid? Now, only if human kids were so amenable and cute...
There is no doubt that gorillas are highly intelligent! Remember Koko, the gorilla who learned how to use sign language? If that's not proof of this species' intelligence, we don't know what is.
We all know otters as these painstakingly cute and adorably playful animals, but they are also pretty smart. Some studies show, that otters might be just as smart as dolphins!
We all know that dolphins are intelligent - they are known to use tools, have a complex communication system, give 'names' to each other, and are capable of solving various problems. Not to mention they're painstakingly cute!
African Grey Parrot
These adorable parrots are among the most intelligent animal species in the world. In fact, they are capable of solving some cognitive tasks at the levels and beyond that of five-year-old humans!
It's easy to assume that squirrels are not as bright just because they don't use tools. But how would you use a tool with such tiny little arms? Anyway, they are capable of learning by observing which is a clear sign of intelligence.
A recent study shows that orangutans are better at making various tools than human kids, three to four-year-olds, to be exact, because that is how smart orangutans are compared to humans.
Slow and amenable, cows might not strike you as highly intelligent. However, they learn new things even faster than dogs, can solve problems requiring logic, and form long-lasting friendships with other cows they particularly like!
Sea lions, a.k.a water puppies, might be just as smart (if not smarter!) than their land counterparts. They have excellent short-term memory and exceed at learning new things.
Pigs are considered the fifth most-intelligent animal in the world, outranking dogs! We're not sure how the study was done, but that particular one showed that pigs are capable of playing video games with more focus and success than chimps.
Although positively tiny, honey bees are very complex animals. Bees can count, recognize human faces, learn tools use, and understand abstract concepts. All that in a tiny stiped package!
Although we're used to thinking of them as the kings of the jungle (although they aren't even from the jungle) because of their impressive looks, they are actually so because of their intelligence! One of the clearest signs to determine intelligence is an animals' ability to learn by observing, and that's what lions do.
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray
Manta rays have the largest brain-to-body mass ratio of any cold-blooded fish. Don't ask us where its brain is, though. Studies have shown that manta rays may be able to recognize themselves in a mirror, which is an ability reserved only to highly intelligent animals.
Chimpanzees are one of the most intelligent animals around! They can learn to use tools, communicate with complex vocalizations and signs, and are excellent problem-solvers.
It is noted that the IQ of an average chimp is right around 20-25, similar to a toddler's!
Although seemingly slow and quiet, giraffes are actually highly intelligent animals. One of the tell-tale signs of their intelligence is their ability to adapt to changes in external stimuli in a very timely manner. Some scientists even say that giraffes are just as smart as elephants!
Nobody would expect it from a measly rodent, but rats are actually excellent at learning and understanding concepts. And, although they are tiny compared to dogs, they might be just as bright!
Both ruthless and intelligent, honey badger takes an honorable place on our list. Honey badgers can solve complex problems and are one of only a few non-primate species known to use tools. Crossing them would not be a good idea!
Although very similar in appearance, Bonobos are said to be slightly more intelligent than chimpanzees. And while chimps are better at using tools, bonobos excel at solving tasks requiring understanding social causality. How's that for smart!
Although Portia spider might seem like an unlikely candidate to this list, they are, in fact, capable of learning and problem-solving!
Baboon & Mandrill
Although not as bright as chimps or gorillas, baboons and mandrills are very intelligent animals. Their intelligence compares to that of human toddlers and although they seem loud and rambunctious (both toddlers and baboons), they are excellent problem-solvers.
African Hunting Dog
An African hunting dog is not your regular couch potato. In fact, these pupperinos show high levels of intelligence and show behaviors that support the health of the whole pack, instead of just one individual. No egoism here!
Although many people consider pigeons a winged nuisance, they are brilliant birds! They are one of only a few species capable of recognizing themselves, besides being able to recognize the letters of a human alphabet, differentiate between images, and even distinguish different humans within a photograph!
In the world of animals, you can be sure that mischievousness equals intelligence! Studies say goats are just as smart as dogs, can solve problems, and form relationships. That said, they always seem to get into the most curious predicaments!
Similar to rats, mice are highly intelligent rodents. They can even remember who their family is and form bonds with them!
Not only falcons can boast about the extraordinary speeds they can travel at, their acute vision, and physical abilities, but they are also highly intelligent birds!
This might come as a surprise to you, but some studies suggest that hyenas are just as intelligent as chimps! Maybe it's time we've stopped portraying them as silly and filthy, don't you think?
Individual ants have tiny little brains, but once together in a colony, the form mass can exhibit remarkable intelligence. When working as a team, ants can navigate long distances, find food, communicate, care for their young, and avoid predators. Oh, and always seem to know when the spring is coming!
California Scrub Jay
A California scrub jay's brain-to-body mass ratio rivals that of chimpanzees, and we all know that the bigger this mass ratio is, the smarter the animal. So, it's no wonder that California scrub jays have earned an honorable place on our list.