12 Animals That Represent Wisdom and Intelligence

Written by Crystal
Updated: September 18, 2023
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Which animals represent wisdom and intelligence?

Owls are at the top of the list. As nocturnal hunters, owls know how to navigate the dark. And according to Greek mythology, a little owl was an attendant of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. What other animals have a reputation for being wise? Keep reading to discover 12 insightful animals.

Infographic showing twelve animals that represent wisdom and intelligence.
The crow and zebra are two animals that represent wisdom and intelligence.

1. Crow

crow perched on an old wood post


can mimic and retain random sounds.


Crows are truly fascinating creatures. An interesting fact most people don’t know: “A murder of crows” is simply the poetic name for a group of crows, not the scientific one. If you ask a scientist, they refer to them as a flock.

Flocks of crows have funerals when one of their members passes away. Crow funerals happen every day. Maybe you’ll see one sometime; they’re easy to spot. Once you see one, you’ll understand why crows are animals that represent wisdom and intelligence.

Once one crows spot the body, it alerts the others. As many as 60 or more crows respond with loud cries. CAW! CAW! Echos of sadness, with other crows joining in. This behavior has made them a symbol of death but also of wisdom and intelligence.

How Intelligent Is a Crow?

Crows are as intelligent as a seven-year-old child. They can learn to recognize different people’s faces, make and use tools, play games, mimic words, and even solve puzzles. Crows are even capable of bluffing to get what they want.

Crows remember humans that feed them food or give them other kinds of aid. In some cases, they can recognize an individual human up to two years after giving them goods. They also have a reputation for bringing people trinkets.

Examples of Crow Wisdom

Being able to deceive is a wise trait crows share with chimpanzees. This is evident in how they hide food from other crows. That’s right; crows know how to bluff.

If a crow thinks another is watching them hide their food, they’ll fake hide their food. The crow will go through all the motions of finding the perfect cache and carefully placing the food in it.

In reality, the crow is secretly tucking the food in its feathers to bury it at another spot later. Tricky right? Until you find out the crow watching knows this trick. If the watching crow calls the bluff, they’ll follow the food to the second spot and scoop it up there. Now that’s intelligent!

2. Elephant

Weakest Animals elephant


have a good memory.

©iStock.com/MOIZ HUSEIN

An elephant calf’s life journey is nothing short of amazing. Within 20 minutes of being born, they can stand and walk within the hour. By day two, they can keep pace with the rest of their herd. This adaptation helps herds of elephants always have food and water as they migrate in search of these necessities.

Elephant behavior is often considered wise and intelligent. They have a good memory, recall events from long ago, and plan for the future. Elephants are even known to mourn the loss of their family members – something humans can relate to. It’s no wonder they are symbols of wisdom and intelligence throughout many cultures.

How Intelligent Is an Elephant?

The University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, made an amazing discovery. Elephants recognize the voices of their friends and enemies. The elephant could tell differences in human gender, age, and ethnicity. If the voice belongs to a person more likely to pose threats, they go into defensive mode.

Examples of Elephant Wisdom

Biologists and philosophers have suspected elephants of being intelligent for centuries. Some believe they show moral judgment. It’s hard to judge moral judgment, but researchers are studying elephants’ cognitive abilities.

Research is proving elephants are just as capable as chimpanzees (and other so-called “brainiacs” of the animal kingdom). Elephants hold their own in tool use, self-awareness, and problem-solving.

3. Octopus


Octopuses are as intelligent as

domesticated cats


©Daniel Eskridge/Shutterstock.com

Octopuses are intelligent enough to plan. An octopus has 500 million neurons, and they use some of them for planning. Intelligence is a function of brain size and how an animal uses its neurons. The flexibility to alter behavior from experience relies on the number and location of these cells. By learning from the past, an octopus can make intelligent decisions for its future survival.

How Intelligent Is an Octopus?

Octopuses are as intelligent as domesticated cats. They’re also stealthy. Using their many neurons, octopuses can expertly move all eight limbs. This type of cognitive ability and flexibility earns their spot on the list of animals that represent wisdom and intelligence.

Examples of Octopus Wisdom

Octopuses are wise and curious creatures. They’ll often explore their environment. They can also solve puzzles, recognize shapes, sizes, and colors, use tools, and even mimic the behaviors of other animals.

The octopus also stars in all sorts of folklore and mythology. In Hawaiian mythology, a god, Kanaloa, took the form of an octopus. Other cultures believe these wise creatures can control the weather. Octopuses in folklore are infamous for conjuring storms. So, the next time it rains, you can blame an octopus!

4. Giraffe

Heaviest Animals: Giraffe


brains have as many neurons as other mammals, perhaps even more.

©Craig Fraser/Shutterstock.com

Giraffes are the tallest land mammal but also one of the smartest. Their long necks give them a significant advantage when finding food and watching for predators. Giraffe brains have as many neurons as other mammals, perhaps even more. They rely on their intelligence to survive in their habitats and make quick decisions when engaging with other animals.

How Intelligent Is a Giraffe?

Giraffes are incredibly intelligent and can learn to recognize individual humans, even if they have not seen them before. They can also remember specific routes over long distances, so they can easily find food sources they’ve already visited.

Giraffes have more neurons in their brain than bears or lions. They have even more neurons than octopuses! This helps giraffes experience life with some of the most innovative thinking habits. Their cognitive abilities allow them to adapt their behavior quickly in response to external stimuli.

Examples of Giraffe Wisdom

Giraffes are gentle creatures who only attack when threatened. They remain grounded even when they are reaching new heights. Giraffes even stand up tall while they’re sleeping.

Giraffes hold a lot of symbolism throughout different cultures. The giraffe symbolizes the wise use of resources and remaining calm while maintaining a higher perspective. If the giraffe is your spirit animal, it is easy to see both sides of conflicts.

5. Sloth

Slowest Animals: Three-Toed Sloth


live a solitary life, and they’re not particularly vocal. But they’re smart enough to use morse code when it’s time to mate.


Sloths might have tiny brains, but they are brilliant regarding survival skills. Sloths are slow and thoughtful. By moving slowly in response to danger, they can outwit predators. This wisdom gives them time to escape and find refuge in the trees.

How Intelligent Is a Sloth?

Sloths live a solitary life, and they’re not particularly vocal. But they’re smart enough to use morse code when it’s time to mate. This unique sloth code sends the message that mating season is beginning. Young sloths also make bleating noises or high-pitched squeaks.

Examples of Sloth Wisdom

Sloths have expert wisdom when it comes to hiding from predators. Their algae-covered fur helps them blend in with the tree bark. The algae that grow on sloth fur benefits from the shelter and water the sloth’s fur absorbs, while the sloth acquires extra nutrients and camouflages.

6. Bear

Brown Bear Close Up


can remember where they found food before and follow the same route if necessary.

©Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever seen a bear in the wild? They’re big yet move gently through the terrain. Astrologists believe bears represent strength, power, and intelligence. Bears are wise animals because of their keen sense of smell, which they use to hunt for food and outsmart predators.

How Intelligent Is a Bear?

Bears have an impressive level of intelligence compared to other mammals. They have excellent problem-solving skills that help them survive in the wild. The bears also have a special memory. They can remember where they found food before and follow the same route if necessary. Bears can even place specific paths for years on end!

Examples of Bear Wisdom

Winnie the Pooh has gone down as one of the most beloved bears. His wit, wisdom, and humor have always been an inspiration to many around the world. The bear also symbolizes bravery and courage. Bears are not afraid to take risks, even in danger.

7. Zebra


stripes serve as camouflage, and they help protect against bug bites.


A group of zebras is a dazzle. And zebras continue to dazzle researchers with their unique behavior, strength, and intelligence. They’re brilliant when it comes to survival. The dualistic stripes help these fantastic animals survive in several ways. Zebra stripes serve as camouflage, and they help protect against bug bites.

How Intelligent Is a Zebra?

The zebra is one of the most intelligent animals in Africa. They can remember a lot of information, including places and faces. Zebras can recognize their family members and work together to protect each other from danger.

Examples of Zebra Wisdom

Zebras are communicative animals. They use a variety of vocalizations, including sniffing and balking, and through body language. They use the position of their ears and tails to communicate all sorts of moods.

8. Badger



honey badger

is clever enough to take on a pride of lions and win!

©Braam Collins/Shutterstock.com

Badgers are fascinating creatures that are popular for their wisdom and intelligence. Though they typically live around 10 years, sometimes they live longer. They are also very social creatures, but the American badger is an exception to this rule and spends most of its time alone.

How Intelligent Is a Badger?

Badgers are more street-smart than they are book-smart. They don’t have the same pattern recognition abilities as sloths or zebras. However, they’re still quite clever when it comes to surviving.

The honey badger is a small carnivore, but don’t let its size fool you. This animal is known for being fiercely defensive and aggressive. For instance, a honey badger is clever enough to take on a pride of lions and win! You can see it happen in this video.

Examples of Badger Wisdom

Badger wisdom is vital to the ecosystem, as they help to regulate the population of other animals. For example, badgers typically eat small mammals such as rodents and rabbits. This helps to keep the population of these animals in check, which can ultimately help to prevent disease.

In addition, badgers also play an essential role in aerating the soil and spreading seeds. Wise badgers are critical to the health of the environment.

9. Crocodile

American crocodile

Using recent findings, we can infer that


are not only intelligent animals but ones with rich emotional lives as well.


Crocodiles are known for their immense strength and sharp teeth. But they’re also bright and have ancient wisdom. They can easily recognize humans from other animals and remember faces over time. Crocodiles have been observed using tools for hunting food. Sticks are the preferred tool of the crocodile and alligators.

How Intelligent Is a Crocodile?

Recently, researchers began studying the brains of Nile crocodiles using MRI scanners. Can you imagine having to be the person to load the crocodile into the MRI machine?

Scanning crocodile brains may sound strange—and even dangerous—but it provides new insights. Researchers are gaining insights into the evolution of brains and how mammals and birds acquired the ability to understand complex sounds.

Examples of Crocodile Wisdom

Using recent findings, we can infer that crocodiles are not only intelligent animals but ones with rich emotional lives as well. Studies show they exhibit advanced behavior, such as keen parental care, expressive communication, and the use of tools for hunting purposes. This new research further cements just how effective their hunting techniques are.

10. Monkey

A wild rhesus monkey in Florida


are intelligent enough to form their own cultures.

©Mel Kowasic/Shutterstock.com

Monkeys are often considered to be one of the most intelligent animals in the world. They can solve complex problems and use tools to complete tasks. Although they are not as smart as humans, they are still very wise creatures.

How Intelligent Is a Monkey?

Monkeys are intelligent enough to form their own cultures. Their advanced communication skills help form special bonds. For instance, chimpanzees will use special gestures only among friends.

Examples of Monkey Wisdom

Monkeys have had a reputation for being wise for a very long time. They often appear in myths and folklore. India has stories of monkeys that date back to 500 B.C. Hanuman, the Monkey, is one of the most popular Hindu gods. Stories tell of the monkey gods’ wisdom, bravery, and commitment to justice.

11. Toucan

toucan in rainforest


build their nests in abandoned, hollowed-out tree cavities or those made by woodpeckers.

©iStock.com/Ondrej Prosicky

Toucans are perhaps best known for their large, colorful beaks. But these birds are more than just pretty faces – they are also incredibly intelligent. In the wild, toucans use their keen intelligence to find food, avoid predators, and navigate their complex rainforest habitat.

How Intelligent Is a Toucan

In captivity, toucans have been known to solve complex puzzles and mimic human speech. They are also quick learners, picking up new tricks with ease. They’ll even tease other toucan family members just for fun.

Examples of Toucan Wisdom

Toucans are wise enough to let other birds build their homes. Toucans build their nests in abandoned, hollowed-out tree cavities or those made by woodpeckers. They lay up to five eggs per year, which both parents help incubate for 15 to 18 days. When toucans sleep, they curl their tail feathers over their head and tuck their beak under a wing creating a small ball.

12. Lion

Lion family portrait



are the primary hunters, which suggests they can plan and strategize.

©Serg Salivon/Shutterstock.com

Lions are one of the most intelligent animals on earth, outperforming all other big cats in task-solving experiments. Researchers believe that social life is the key to the lion’s advantage over other big cats. Social intelligence results in higher cognitive ability.

How Intelligent Is a Lion?

Lions are so intelligent they live in groups. This shows they can cooperate with others. Female lions are the primary hunters, which suggests they can plan and strategize. Finally, a lion’s roar can be heard up to eight kilometers away; this demonstrates their strong vocal communication skills.

Examples of Lion Wisdom

These big cats are wise and aware. Lion’s scent marks their territory, using their urine to create a border. This behavior indicates that they are aware of their surroundings and know how to claim what is theirs. Trouble will fall on any animal that doesn’t respect a lion’s boundaries.

Final Thoughts on Animals That Represent Wisdom and Intelligence

Which animal do you think is the wisest? Giraffes and sloths help us understand the importance of patience, contemplation, and understanding when making decisions. Zebras teach us to be confident in our skin. Then, of course, there are the bears, with their strength and resilience.

When thinking of wise creatures, remember to list yourself. Humans are animals too. And it takes a wise mammal to read about the other creatures in the world.

You never know what you’ll learn that can completely change how you see things. Like, did you know some black bears are experts at stealing meals? Check it out in the video below!

What color symbolizes wisdom?

Clouds in the sky

Blue skies relay feelings of stability and reliability.

©zoom-zoom/iStock via Getty Images

There are other representations in the world and in culture that obviously symbolize qualities, traits, and much more. Colors can even portray such qualities, and blue in particular has been often paired with the concepts of stability, calmness, and even wisdom. This probably comes from the association with blue skies and blue seas. There is a peaceful omniscience to the dominating presence of the skies above. In some Christian art, Mary is often depicted wearing blue clothing connecting her visually to grace and wisdom.

What gemstone symbolizes wisdom?

Sapphire on white background

Sapphires have been know for conveying wisdom.


Based on the pairing of blue with wisdom, it may come as no surprise that sapphires can be associated with the same qualities and traits. Moreover, they have also been connected to intuition and prophecy.

Summary of 12 Animals That Represent Wisdom and Intelligence


The photo featured at the top of this post is © Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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