While human beings are the most intelligent beings that we know to exist, there are ~other~ animals that share our planet who are also just as surprisingly smart. We aren’t talking about animals dominating the world, but rather that animals are much smarter than people even realize. We decided to pull together 16 extraordinary animals who display amazing levels of intelligence – you’ll be shocked by who else makes the list.
Once upon a time pigeons were used in several facets of both warfare and regular communication. I know, right? Pigeons were used to transport messages back and forth great distances, far faster than a traditional courier would on a horse. They are also able to memorize faces and locations and have an extraordinary sense of geographic location. Are these birds going to stage a take over anytime soon? Probably not, but you can find video online showing just how smart they are.
What? Did you really think that our four legged furry friends wouldn’t make the list? With that being said, the intelligence of dogs can come into serious question depending on the breed. However, the smarter dog breeds are capable of memorizing all sorts of commands as they are easy to train. Not only are dogs able to respond quickly to human command, they also display a high level of emotional intelligence – making them the perfect companion.
If you have ever seen a squirrel run into the middle of a busy traffic intersection then you likely wouldn’t think of them as smart. Still, squirrels are far more intelligent than you or I give them credit for. They are extremely focused on procuring food which is what makes their memory so ridiculously incredible. Squirrels literally have to remember every single place they put their food and they do, spanning entire seasons.
Far from being just a portent for ominous things to come, crows are one of the smartest animals on the planet. Crows have large brains when compared to their size and they are proportionately similar to Chimpanzee’s in that regard. Crows are incredible at adapting to their environment, can learn to use tools, and even understand the concept of vengeance. To put things simply: crows understand far more than we realize at first blush.
It’s hard to look at a big cow chewing grass and staring into the distance all day while seeing them as intelligent. However, you would be quite wrong to write off cows so quickly and completely. Cows are actually ~very smart~ in that they actually care about things. They make friends with one another and can also hold grudges. (Weird, right?) These animals worry about their future, display an array of emotions, and they are extremely intuitive to people.
Pigs are so unfairly mocked that we expect most people to turn right around and defend them. Despite their reputation pigs are actually clean and yes, intelligent. They’ll never soil an area near their food supply and they try to stay as clean as they can. Considered one of the smartest domesticated animals on the planet, pigs are capable of playing simple video games, learning a range of tricks, and finding food no matter where you might hide it.
We don’t tend to think of insects as intelligent, but bees are a different kind of special. Now, we all know that bees are immensely important to our environment, but their intelligent is more of a non traditional way. Bees exhibit swarm intelligence which means that a hive of bees is smart but an individual bee is not. Oh, and did you know that bees will have ‘dance battles’ to help make group decisions? Ridiculous!
Whales are the true giants of the ocean (that we know of) and while they don’t have a proportionately large brain, they are still surprisingly smart. The biggest show of their intelligence is by their singing voice (could the same be said for Grammy award winning types? HMM). Whales communicate through singing in order to coordinate different activities with one another including hunting or other problem solving situations.
The bonobo is cousin to the chimpanzee and while bonobos are endangered, they can still be found in certain locations of Central Africa. Bonobos monkeys can use sign language and learn the different meanings of symbols. In fact one bonobo by the name of Kanzi, as reported by National Geographic, carries with him a symbol board so that he can talk with the humans that are researching him.
We would never be happy to see a rat in a restaurant but these furry and maligned critters are unfairly criticized when they are actually quite smart. Rats have a similar mental ability to humans and primates and as a result they are extensively used in different experiments, much to the chagrin of groups like PETA. They are also able to sense landmines and smell bombs which makes them useful in war like applications. These furry creatures are also able to show a range of emotions, even regret.
These fascinating creatures are among the smartest to roam the sea. They are able to use tools, learn tricks, and get distinctly bored. (Sound familiar?) As a result of their boredom you can see octopi actually play games to pass the time. Incredible!
African Grey Parrots
These social little birds are loving, caring, and extremely intelligent. The African Grey Parrot can learn hundreds of words and sounds and they have been compared to the intelligence of an average five year old human child. Very cool. One famous study of an African Grey Parrot named Alex, who died in 2007, found that the bird was able to learn 150 different words, count, solve problems, and even make demands — such as saying, “I’m going away now” before leaving.
Take one look at those beautiful, emotional eyes and you’ll see a creature full of intelligence. Elephants have the largest brains of any land animal on the planet and they are similar in neuron count to that of a human. Elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors, coordinate with one another to solve problems, and display an amazing rage of social abilities.
Just about everyone knows how intelligent bottlenose dolphins are but that doesn’t mean that we understand just what that means. Dolphins have a brain that is more complex in structure than the human brain. The dolphin is actually considered so intelligent that leaders in ethics at professors around the globe are pushing to declare dolphins as ‘non human persons’ which, in a legal stance, gives them the ability to distinguish themselves as individuals in the court of law.
Chimpanzees look like us and they are smart like us, to a degree. Chimps have a genome that is 98% identical tot hat of the human being. These animals use tools, organize themselves into groups for hunting and social order, and commit acts of violence out of emotion. Chimps have amazing memories and have actually outscored humans on certain tests.
The debate rages on between scientists whether Orangutans or Chimpanzees are smarter but for now the Orangutan is ahead. Orangutans have been taught to use tools and create their own devices while in captivity. Then, when the aforementioned orangutan were released, they were observed in the wild building those same tools and protective structures in order to help themselves out. This sort of intelligence, one that goes beyond memorization, is something truly striking to see.