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20 Smartest Animals in the World (And What Makes Them Smart)

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Ever wondered what are the smartest animals in the world? Humans tend to believe that they are superior to other animals because of their intelligence.

However, we often fail to contemplate what makes us so unique. Is it our ability to plan, use tools, form complex social relationships, or have object permanence?

Some of these traits are also found in other animal species, and some animals exhibit all of them.

In fact, many animal species possess specialized intelligence that is crucial for their survival. For instance, remembering routes and landmarks throughout their habitat enables many animals to navigate safely and find food.

Some animals need to devise strategies to outsmart predators and avoid becoming prey. You may also be surprised to know that lots of animals display a considerable amount of emotional intelligence.

If you’re curious to find out more about the smartest animals (and what exactly quantifies animal intelligence), then this guide is exactly what you need!

I’ll cover all of that and also share the 20 smartest animals in the world and what makes them so smart.

How is Animal Intelligence Evaluated?

Evaluating animal intelligence is a complex task, requiring a blend of observational studies, experimental testing, and comparative analysis.

Given the diverse range of cognitive abilities across different species, a universal measure like the human IQ is not applicable.

Instead, researchers often use a variety of tests and measures tailored to the specific capabilities of each species.

Encephalization Quotient (EQ)

Brain with monkey on a white background

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The encephalization quotient (EQ) is a measure of an animal’s brain size relative to its body size. This ratio is considered a rough estimate of the intelligence, or ‘IQ’, of an animal.

While it is not the sole determinant of an animal’s cognitive abilities, it is indeed an essential factor to consider.

Among the most intelligent animals, a larger brain relative to body size is often observed. This is particularly true for species known for their complex social structures, such as dolphins, elephants, and certain primates.

These animals have evolved larger brains to handle the demands of intricate social interactions, problem-solving, and communication.

Take, for instance, the common chimpanzee, one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Chimpanzees have an EQ almost identical to that of human toddlers.

This is a remarkable feat, considering the vast differences in the physical and environmental challenges these two species face. The larger brain of the chimpanzee allows it to navigate mazes, use tools, and even understand sign language.

However, a high EQ does not necessarily equate to ‘human-like’ intelligence. For instance, while dolphins have a larger brain and higher EQ than humans, they do not possess the human concept of reflection, a cornerstone of human intelligence.

Number of Neurons


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The number of neurons within an animal’s brain is often seen as a reliable indicator of its intelligence. For instance, humans, who are widely recognized as the most intelligent animals, possess an average of 86 billion neurons.

These neurons, which are the primary components of the brain, are responsible for transmitting information and facilitating cognitive processes.

Also, studies have shown that some birds, despite their smaller body size, possess a high number of neurons. For example, crows and parrots, known for their problem-solving skills, have several neurons comparable to that of primates.

It’s worth noting that the number of neurons does not directly correlate with IQ, as intelligence is a multifaceted trait that cannot be measured solely by neuron count or brain size.

Problem-Solving Skills

Crow drinking from a faucet

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One of the key indicators of intelligence in animals is their ability to solve problems. This can be seen in various species, but it is most prevalent among the most intelligent animals.

One of the most notable examples of problem-solving skills in animals is seen in the crow family.

Crows and ravens are known for their exceptional ability to use tools, a skill that requires significant cognitive prowess. They use sticks, wires, and other objects to extract food from hard-to-reach places.

Moreover, they are capable of planning for the future—a skill previously thought to be exclusive to humans and a few other primates.

Communication and Social Structures

Dolphins in the water

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When it comes to figuring out who the most intelligent animals are, communication and the formation of complex social structures are paramount.

These features are not only indicative of advanced cognitive abilities but also provide a fascinating insight into the evolutionary parallels between humans and other species.

Animals such as dolphins and whales are renowned for their complex communication systems.

These marine mammals utilize a series of clicks, whistles, and body movements to convey messages, demonstrating a level of sophistication that rivals human language in its complexity.

Learning and Memory

White mouse on a maze

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In the animal kingdom, the ability to learn and remember is another clear indicator of intelligence. Many of the most intelligent animals have shown remarkable aptitude in these areas, often surprising researchers with their cognitive abilities.

We already mentioned rats and their ability to navigate complex mazes but this ability to learn and remember is not limited to rodents. Birds, particularly crows and parrots, have also shown exceptional skills in problem-solving and memory tests.

Self Awareness

The concept of self-awareness is often linked to the most intelligent animals. Self-awareness refers to the ability to recognize oneself as an individual entity, distinct from the environment and other individuals.

It is a trait that is not widespread amongst animals and is often considered a hallmark of advanced cognitive processes.

One of the most significant indicators of self-awareness in animals is the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror, a concept known as the concept of reflection. This ability is often used as a measure of self-awareness and intelligence.

A small number of animals, including some primates, dolphins, and elephants, have demonstrated this ability in scientific studies.

For instance, these animals, when marked with a dye and presented with a mirror, will often reach for the mark on their bodies, indicating that they understand the reflection in the mirror is their own.

Time Perception

Squirrel eating a nut

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Time perception is a critical cognitive ability that is not only exclusive to humans but is also present in certain animal species.

This ability allows animals to anticipate future events, plan actions, and execute behaviors with precision. It is an essential aspect of survival, as it facilitates hunting, foraging, and escaping from predators.

One of the most remarkable examples of time perception in the animal kingdom is seen in squirrels.

These creatures exhibit an impressive ability to remember the locations of hundreds of buried nuts, and when to retrieve them, demonstrating a keen sense of time.

Birds, too, have a finely tuned sense of time. Many species of migratory birds can embark on long-distance flights at precise times of the year, guided by their internal biological clocks.

This innate time-keeping ability allows them to navigate vast distances and arrive at their destinations at the right time.

In the marine world, some species of octopuses have been observed to demonstrate time perception.

They have been known to exhibit behaviors such as opening and closing their dens in a regular rhythm, suggesting an awareness of time.

In the realm of mammals, elephants stand out for their exceptional memory and time perception. They are known to remember routes to watering holes over long periods, demonstrating their ability to perceive time.

The Top 20 Smartest Animals in the World

1. Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees on a log

Chimpanzees – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Chimpanzees are widely acknowledged as one of the smartest animals in the world. Their intelligence is evident in their complex social structures, their ability to use tools, and their capacity for learning and problem-solving.

Chimpanzees live in communities that can range from 15 to 150 members. These communities are organized in a complex social structure, where every individual has a specific rank.

This hierarchy is not rigid and can change depending on various factors, such as the ability to form alliances. This dynamic structure requires a high level of social intelligence, as chimpanzees need to understand and predict the behavior of their peers.

One of the most striking demonstrations of chimpanzee intelligence is their use of tools. They are known to use sticks to extract termites from their mounds, stones to crack open nuts, and leaves as sponges or spoons to drink water. This behavior shows not only problem-solving skills but also the ability to plan ahead and adapt to different situations.

Chimpanzees also have an impressive capacity for learning. Studies have shown that they can learn new tasks by observing others, a behavior known as social learning.

This ability is not limited to physical tasks; chimpanzees can also learn and understand symbols and even some aspects of human language when taught in a controlled environment.

2. Orangutan

Orangutans on a tree

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Orangutans, often overlooked in conversations about intelligent animals, are in fact extraordinarily smart.

These arboreal primates, native to the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, exhibit a remarkable level of cognitive sophistication that rivals and, in some aspects, even surpasses that of their primate cousins.

Orangutans wield an impressive mental toolkit for problem-solving. They have been observed using tools in the wild, a behavior indicative of advanced cognitive abilities. This includes using sticks to extract honey or insects from tree trunks and leaves as makeshift umbrellas or gloves.

Their tool use is not limited to food acquisition but extends to their social interactions as well. For instance, they have been known to use branches as sound amplifiers when making long-distance calls.

Their intelligence is not just limited to their physical world. Orangutans also demonstrate a remarkable capacity for social learning and imitation, a trait that is considered a cornerstone of cultural transmission.

Young orangutans learn essential skills and behaviors by observing and imitating their mothers and other adults in the group. This includes everything from foraging strategies to nest-building techniques.

Moreover, orangutans have shown an ability to understand and communicate using sign language, further highlighting their cognitive prowess.

In captivity, some orangutans have been taught to use sign language to express their needs, desires, and emotions, indicating a level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence that is rare among non-human animals.

3. Bonobo

Bonobos on the ground

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Bonobos, a species of great ape closely related to chimpanzees and humans, are renowned for their intelligence. They are native to the Congo Basin in Central Africa, where they inhabit the lush rainforests.

Bonobos are known for their high level of emotional intelligence which is evident in their complex social structures. They live in matriarchal societies, where females hold the dominant roles, a rarity in the animal kingdom.

This social structure requires a high level of emotional intelligence, as it is based on cooperation, empathy, and negotiation rather than physical strength or aggression.

In terms of cognitive abilities, bonobos have demonstrated impressive problem-solving skills. They have been observed using tools in the wild to access food and have performed well in laboratory tests involving puzzles and tasks.

Their ability to understand and use symbols has also been noted, with some individuals even learning to communicate with humans using sign language or symbol boards.

Plus, bonobos display an understanding of abstract concepts such as time and numbers, abilities once thought to be unique to humans. They also show a capacity for learning by observation, a key aspect of cultural transmission, which is another indicator of high intelligence.

Bonobos’ intelligence is not only limited to cognitive and emotional aspects. They also have remarkable physical intelligence, demonstrated by their adeptness at navigating their complex forest habitats.

Their agility and coordination, particularly in tree-climbing and swinging, require a sophisticated understanding of their physical environment.

4. Dolphin

Dolphins on the seafloor

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Dolphins are renowned for their extraordinary intelligence, placing them among the smartest animals on Earth. They belong to the family of Cetaceans, which also includes whales and porpoises, characterized by their highly evolved brains.

Dolphins exhibit a wide range of complex behaviors that demonstrate their cognitive abilities. For example, they have been observed using tools, a characteristic that is relatively rare among animals.

Bottlenose dolphins, in particular, are known to use marine sponges to protect their snouts while foraging on the sea floor, a clever technique passed down through generations.

Notably, dolphins also have a sophisticated communication system. They use a series of clicks, whistles, and body movements to convey messages to each other.

Some researchers believe that dolphins may even have their own language, although this is still a topic of ongoing debate in the scientific community.

Moreover, dolphins are renowned for their problem-solving skills. In captivity, they have been shown to understand complex instructions, recognize themselves in mirrors, and exhibit signs of culture – traits that were once thought to be uniquely human.

5. Elephant

Elephant in nature

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The elephant, a majestic creature known for its immense size and grandeur, is also one of the smartest animals on the planet.

Their intelligence is not merely a product of their large brain size but is also reflected in their complex social structures, emotional depth, and exceptional memory.

Elephants live in matriarchal societies, where knowledge, wisdom, and social norms are passed down from generation to generation.

This social structure is a clear demonstration of their cognitive abilities, as it requires understanding and remembering social relationships and norms.

One of the most telling signs of their intelligence is their remarkable memory. Elephants are known to remember routes to watering holes over incredibly large distances, which is crucial for survival in the harsh environments they often inhabit.

They are also capable of remembering individuals, both elephants and humans, even after years of separation.

Plus, elephants exhibit a range of emotions, including empathy, altruism, and grief. They have been observed comforting distressed members of their group, helping other species in times of need, and showing signs of mourning when a member of their group dies.

These emotional responses are indicative of a high level of emotional intelligence, which is a key component of overall intelligence.

6. Raven, Crow & Magpie

Raven on a branch

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When it comes to intelligence in the avian world, few can rival the cognitive prowess of the raven, crow, and magpie. These birds, all members of the Corvidae family, are renowned for their problem-solving abilities, memory, and the capacity to learn new skills.

Ravens, in particular, are known for their exceptional problem-solving skills. They have been observed using tools to obtain food and are capable of planning for future events – a trait previously thought to be unique to humans.

Their social behavior is also complex, with evidence of cooperation, deception, and even politics in their interactions.

Like ravens, crows are also tool users. They have been seen bending wires into hooks to extract food from hard-to-reach places.

Crow on a tree branch

Crow – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Plus, crows possess a remarkable memory. They can remember human faces and hold grudges against perceived threats, demonstrating a level of awareness and understanding that’s uncommon in the animal kingdom.

Magpies, on the other hand, are one of the few non-mammal species that can recognize themselves in a mirror. This self-recognition indicates a high level of cognitive ability, suggesting a complex level of consciousness.

Magpie on a branch

Magpie – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Their intelligence is also manifested in their intricate social structures and their ability to hide and remember the locations of thousands of food caches.

7. Gorilla

Group of gorillas in a forest

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Gorillas, the largest living primates, are renowned for their impressive intellectual abilities.

They are capable of complex cognitive tasks that demonstrate a high level of intelligence. This includes the use of tools for foraging and problem-solving.

For instance, they have been observed using sticks to gauge the depth of water before crossing a swamp, a clear indication of their ability to use tools to interact with their environment.

Gorillas also have sophisticated social structures. They live in groups, known as troops, led by a dominant adult male, often referred to as a silverback.

The silverback makes decisions for the group about movement, feeding, and protection. This hierarchical structure underscores their ability to establish and maintain social order, which is a marker of intelligence.

Another remarkable feature of gorillas is their ability to communicate. They use a variety of vocalizations, body postures, and facial expressions to convey different messages. Some gorillas, like Koko, have even been taught sign language, further proving their cognitive abilities.

In the realm of emotions, gorillas exhibit empathy, one of the more complex emotions, usually associated with higher forms of intelligence. They have been known to grieve their dead and even hold ‘funerals’.

8. Orca

Two orcas leaping in the ocean

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Orcas, also known as killer whales, are among the most intelligent creatures on Earth. They are members of the oceanic dolphin family, which is the largest species of the dolphin family.

A fascinating aspect of their intelligence is their distinctive culture and complex social structures, which are comparable to those of some primate species and human societies.

Orcas are known for their strategic hunting techniques that are passed down from generation to generation. These techniques vary from one group to another and are a clear indication of cultural differences among different orca populations.

Some orcas, for instance, have mastered the art of beach hunting, where they intentionally beach themselves to catch seals on the shore, while others use a coordinated approach to encircle and capture their prey.

Another display of their intelligence is their communication skills. Orcas have complex vocal behaviors and are capable of learning new sounds from other species.

They use a series of clicks, whistles, and calls to communicate with each other, navigate their environment, and locate prey.

Orcas also possess impressive problem-solving abilities. They have been observed in captivity using bait to catch birds, displaying their ability to plan and execute complex tasks.

This level of cognitive sophistication, combined with their emotional intelligence, makes orcas one of the smartest animals in the world.

9. African Grey Parrot

Closeup shot of an African Grey Parrot perching on a tree branch

African Grey Parrot – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The African Grey Parrot, scientifically known as Psittacus erithacus, is a remarkable bird species noted for its advanced cognitive and communication abilities.

This bird, native to the dense rainforests of West and Central Africa, has been observed to possess intellectual capacities comparable to those of a young child.

African Grey Parrots have an impressive capacity for vocal mimicry, which extends beyond mere imitation. They are known to associate words with their meanings and can use them contextually in appropriate situations.

This ability to comprehend and utilize human language sets them apart from many other animal species and underscores their cognitive sophistication.

Their problem-solving skills are also noteworthy. African Grey Parrots have demonstrated the ability to solve complex puzzles and are known for their tool-use capabilities, a trait that is relatively rare in the animal kingdom and indicative of advanced cognitive functioning.

Also, these parrots exhibit a strong understanding of numerical concepts. They can count, understand the concept of zero, and even grasp abstract concepts such as equivalence and difference.

This level of numerical cognition is rarely observed in non-human animals and further illustrates the African Grey Parrot’s intellectual prowess.

10. Dog, Wolf, Fox & Coyote

Jack Russel Terrier Dog leaping on the ground

Dog – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The canine family, encompassing dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes, is renowned for their cognitive abilities.

These animals have shown remarkable intelligence and adaptability in various aspects of their lives, from hunting and foraging to social interaction and communication.

Dogs, our long-time companions, are known for their ability to understand and respond to human commands, emotions, and gestures. This is a result of thousands of years of domesticity and selective breeding.

Dogs have been trained to perform complex tasks such as guiding the blind, detecting diseases, and even performing search and rescue operations.

Wolves, the wild ancestors of dogs, exhibit intelligence through their intricate social structures and hunting strategies. They live and hunt in packs, demonstrating cooperation and coordination that requires a high level of cognitive ability.

Pack of wolves during winter

Wolves – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Wolves also use vocalizations, body language, and even scent marking to communicate within their pack, showing a sophisticated understanding of social dynamics.

Foxes, often portrayed as cunning and clever in folklore, are indeed intelligent creatures. They are solitary hunters, relying on their wits and agility to catch prey.

Fox with its front legs on a stump

Fox – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Foxes are known to use deceptive behavior to evade predators, and they can adapt to a wide range of habitats, from forests to urban areas.

Similarly, coyotes are highly adaptable and resourceful. They are omnivorous, eating a wide variety of foods, and can change their hunting strategies based on the availability of prey.

Coyote selective focus

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Coyotes have also been observed using teamwork to catch larger prey, demonstrating their ability to strategize and cooperate.

11. Pig

A pig in the forest

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Pigs are often underestimated in the animal kingdom, but they are indeed one of the smartest creatures on the planet.

They possess cognitive abilities comparable to dogs and primates, and they display a remarkable capacity for learning and remembering tasks.

Pigs can be trained to perform a variety of tricks, from simple commands like “sit” and “stay” to more complex tasks like fetching objects or even playing video games.

They are also capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors, a trait that is considered a sign of high cognitive ability and self-awareness.

In addition to their intellectual prowess, pigs also exhibit a wide range of emotions and social behaviors.

They form close bonds with other pigs and can communicate using a variety of vocalizations. They also show empathy towards their peers, a trait that is rare among animals.

Plus, pigs have a keen sense of direction. They can find their way home over large distances, and they can remember the location of objects and food sources. This spatial memory and navigational ability are further evidence of their intelligence.

12. Cat

Gray cat walking

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When discussing the intelligence of animals, the common domestic cat, or Felis catus, cannot be overlooked.

Cats are known for their independent nature, but this should not be mistaken for a lack of intelligence. In fact, their independence is often a sign of their ability to problem-solve and adapt to their environment.

One of the primary indicators of a cat’s intelligence is its ability to learn and retain information. Cats have proven their ability to learn by observation and can remember information for up to 16 hours, a trait known as long-term potentiation.

This is particularly evident in their hunting behaviors. Even domesticated cats that have never hunted can mimic the stalking and pouncing behaviors of their wild counterparts, indicating an innate knowledge passed down through generations.

Moreover, cats are adept at understanding human cues. They can recognize their owner’s voice, respond to their name, and even interpret human emotions to some extent. This level of social cognition is a strong indicator of intelligence in animals.

Plus, cats have a unique form of communication that they reserve only for humans: the “solicitation purr.” This purr, which is often used when a cat wants food, is at a frequency that is particularly hard for humans to ignore.

The fact that cats have developed this specialized form of communication suggests a high level of adaptability and understanding of their human companions.

13. Octopus

Octopus in the water

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The octopus, a soft-bodied, eight-limbed mollusk, is widely considered one of the smartest animals in the ocean.

These fascinating creatures are known for their remarkable problem-solving abilities, short-term and long-term memory, and complex behaviors.

Octopuses are solitary creatures and primarily rely on their intelligence for survival. They have been observed using tools, a characteristic that was once thought to be exclusive to humans and higher mammals.

For instance, some species of octopus use coconut shells and seashells as a form of shelter or armor, demonstrating a level of problem-solving ability that is rare among invertebrates.

Their intelligence is not limited to tool use. Octopuses are also renowned for their escape artistry. They can squeeze their soft bodies through incredibly tight spaces to evade predators or escape confinement.

This ability is not purely physical; it requires an understanding of their environment and spatial awareness, further evidence of their cognitive capabilities.

Plus, octopuses have both short-term and long-term memory. They can learn from their experiences and alter their behaviors accordingly, which is a clear indication of advanced cognitive functions.

For example, an octopus that has been caught in a trap will remember how it escaped and avoid similar traps in the future.

In terms of complex behaviors, octopuses display a wide range. They can change the color and texture of their skin to blend in with their surroundings, a behavior known as camouflage.

This is not a simple reflex action but a conscious decision made by the octopus, further showcasing their intelligence.

14. Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish in the water

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Cuttlefish, an intriguing member of the cephalopod family, are renowned for their incredible cognitive abilities that place them among the smartest creatures in the animal kingdom.

Cuttlefish are marine animals that possess a unique internal shell, known as a cuttlebone. They are found in warm oceans and seas and are particularly known for their advanced problem-solving skills and learning capabilities.

Cuttlefish have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates. This, coupled with their highly developed nervous system, allows them to exhibit a range of complex behaviors.

For instance, they have an extraordinary ability to change their skin color and pattern in response to their environment. This is not only a defense mechanism to avoid predators, but also a form of communication with other cuttlefish.

Studies have shown that cuttlefish can remember specific information, such as the location of their prey, for up to two weeks. They also exhibit impressive problem-solving skills.

In controlled experiments, cuttlefish have been able to learn how to open screw-top jars to obtain food inside, demonstrating their ability to use tools, a clear sign of higher cognitive function.

Plus cuttlefish display social intelligence. They can recognize and remember other individual cuttlefish, and adjust their behavior based on past interactions. This level of social cognition is rare among invertebrates and further cements the cuttlefish’s place among the smartest animals.

15. Squirrel

Squirrel on a tree eating acorn

Squirrel – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Renowned for their acrobatic skills and industrious nature, squirrels are often overlooked when it comes to discussions about intelligent animals.

However, these small mammals display a remarkable level of cognitive abilities that place them among the smartest animals on the planet.

Squirrels are known for their ability to navigate complex environments, such as busy city landscapes, with ease. They are capable of learning through trial and error, and they can quickly adapt their behaviors based on new information.

This is particularly evident in their foraging strategies. Squirrels will go to great lengths to secure food, often demonstrating impressive feats of memory and spatial awareness.

Plus, squirrels exhibit advanced planning abilities. They gather and store food for the winter months, demonstrating a keen understanding of the concept of future needs.

What’s more, they employ deceptive tactics to protect their food caches from potential thieves. If a squirrel suspects it is being watched, it will pretend to bury a nut, then scurry off to hide it elsewhere.

This level of strategic thinking is indicative of a high degree of intelligence.

16. Rat

Selective focus of a rat

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Rats are often viewed with disdain due to their association with filth and disease, but these creatures possess an intelligence that should not be overlooked.

Rats have a remarkable ability to navigate complex mazes, remember routes, and solve problems, which makes them one of the smartest animals in the rodenticide family.

Rats are highly social creatures that demonstrate empathy, a trait that is rare among animals. They have been observed freeing caged companions and sharing food, indicating a level of altruism that suggests a sophisticated social structure.

Plus, rats have an impressive capacity for learning and memory. They can quickly learn new tasks and remember them for a long time. This cognitive flexibility allows them to adapt to changing environments and survive in a variety of conditions.

In laboratory settings, rats have shown the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors, a sign of self-awareness that is considered a hallmark of higher intelligence. T

hey can also exhibit metacognition, or thinking about thinking, another indication of their mental acuity.

In addition, rats are capable of using tools to obtain food and navigate their environment. They can learn to pull levers, push buttons, and even use tiny rakes to gather food, demonstrating a level of problem-solving ability that rivals that of many larger-brained animals.

17. Pigeon

Pigeon flying in the air

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Pigeons, often overlooked due to their ubiquity in urban environments, are in fact among the smartest animals in the world.

These birds, belonging to the family Columba livia, exhibit a remarkable array of cognitive abilities that far surpass those of many other avian species.

One of the most impressive aspects of pigeon intelligence is their ability to recognize themselves in a mirror. This self-recognition, a trait shared by only a few other species such as dolphins and primates, is indicative of a high level of self-awareness.

Pigeons can also remember hundreds of images for several years, a feat that demonstrates their exceptional memory capabilities.

In addition to these cognitive skills, pigeons are known for their extraordinary navigational abilities. They can find their way home from distances of up to 1300 miles, using a range of environmental cues and possibly a magnetic sense.

This homeward orientation skill has been utilized by humans for centuries, with pigeons being used to deliver messages across vast distances.

18. Goats

Goats in a field

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Goats are often underestimated in their intellectual capabilities, primarily due to their seemingly simple pastoral lifestyle and domesticated status.

However, recent studies have demonstrated that these animals possess a surprising level of intelligence and cognitive sophistication.

Goats have been proven to possess excellent long-term memory. They can remember complex tasks and problem-solving strategies for up to ten years, a trait that is quite rare in the animal kingdom.

This memory retention is particularly useful in their natural habitats, where remembering the location of food sources, water, and safe shelter is crucial for survival.

Additionally, they exhibit advanced problem-solving skills.

In various experiments, goats have been shown to be capable of learning how to operate complex mechanisms to access food, even when these tasks require a series of steps to be performed in a specific order.

This ability to learn and adapt to new challenges is a clear indication of their cognitive prowess.

Socially, goats are also quite sophisticated. They are capable of recognizing other individual goats, even after long periods of separation.

They communicate through a variety of vocalizations, body postures, and facial expressions, displaying a complex social structure that is indicative of their intelligence.

19. Deer

Deer in the forest during winter season

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Contrary to popular belief, deer are not just simple, timid creatures. They are, in fact, among the smartest animals in the world.

Their cognitive abilities are often overlooked, perhaps due to their quiet and unassuming nature. However, a deeper look into their behavior reveals a surprising level of intelligence and adaptability.

One of the most remarkable aspects of deer intelligence is their memory. Deer have an excellent ability to remember specific locations, which is crucial for their survival.

They can recall the exact spots where they found food or water, and they remember the places where they encountered danger. This memory serves as a mental map, guiding them through their environment and helping them avoid potential threats.

Plus, deer exhibit impressive problem-solving skills. They can quickly adapt to changes in their environment and come up with innovative solutions to overcome obstacles.

For instance, deer have been known to leap over fences or squeeze through small gaps to reach a food source. They also demonstrate a keen understanding of timing, often waiting until dark to venture into open areas where they are less visible to predators.

20. Llamas

Llama on a grassy field

LLama – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Llamas, a member of the camel family, are one of the smartest animals in the world. These animals, native to the Andean region of South America, display a high level of intelligence that is often underestimated.

They are known for their remarkable problem-solving abilities, excellent memory, and sophisticated social structure.

Llamas have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been used in various roles, including as pack animals, for their wool, and even as guard animals for other livestock. Their ability to learn and adapt to these roles demonstrates their intellectual capacity.

For instance, llamas can quickly learn complex routes, remember them for years, and even navigate them in the absence of their handler, displaying a superior sense of direction.

In terms of problem-solving, llamas are capable of understanding cause and effect relationships. They can swiftly figure out how to open gates or navigate obstacles when motivated by food or the need to join their herd.

This ability to understand and manipulate their environment is a clear indicator of their cognitive abilities.


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