5 Smartest Mammals In The World

Written by Sarah Psaradelis
Published: September 24, 2022
© Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com
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Every creature is capable of being smart. However, mammals have gained a reputation for being one of the smartest creatures on earth. Not only do some mammals have excellent cognitive abilities like humans, but they can solve problems, adapt to their environment, feel, and show their emotions.

Mammals are viewed as one of the most intelligent animals,. Since there are estimated to be around 130 billion mammals in the world today, we have compiled a list of the smartest mammals in the world that are known for their advanced cognitive abilities and similarities to human intelligence.

Are Mammals Smart?

Mammals are warm-blooded animals that feed their young with milk produced from mammary glands. They can be found both on land and in the ocean, ranging from our close relatives, the apes, to the large and majestic blue whale. Mammals are viewed as smarter than other animals, and humans are mammals too. Being smart means having advanced cognitive abilities to show emotions, communicate, act socially, and learn new adaptive behaviors for better survival.

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These are some of the smartest mammals in the world that have been observed for their intelligence:

1. Orangutans

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The orangutan can quickly adapt to its environment.

©Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com

Orangutans are considered one of the smartest primates or land animals on this planet. This is because they belong to the ape family which humans are believed to have evolved from. Studies conducted in both the wild and in captivity showed how intelligent these animals can be, and just how quickly they can learn and adapt to their environment.

An orangutan was spotted in the wild on an island in Borneo using a spear to catch fish, and the male ape did this by hanging from a tree and dipping the spear into the water to impale the fish. This shows the species’ ability to think of new ways to adapt to their environment and catch the food that they need to survive. They have also been seen using tools like rocks to crack open nuts to eat easier than if they were to use their teeth.

Many animals lack the cognitive abilities to think of this, but it shows how advanced the orangutan’s thinking can be.

2. Dolphins

Having large brains, dolphins can be acutely self aware.

©iStock.com/Michelle de Villiers

Dolphins are aquatic mammals that are considered to be one of the smartest animals in the world. They have impressively large brains for their body size and have shown high levels of emotional and social intelligence that many other animals lack. Dolphins can be acutely self-aware, as they can recognize themselves in the mirror without thinking they are just another dolphin.

They are also referred to as humans’ cognitive cousins, according to Louis Herman, an American biologist who researched dolphins’ sensory abilities and cognition. He found that these mammals share some of the same characteristics as other smart mammals, like humans and apes.

3. Chimpanzees

Animals that Sweat – chimpanzees
Research suggests that chimpanzees inherit intelligence from their parents.

©Crystal Alba/Shutterstock.com

It’s not surprising that another animal from the ape family is ranked one of the smartest mammals. Chimps have shown researchers that they are highly intelligent and can solve many different problems set out by their trainers or experimenters.

New research has suggested that chimps inherit their intelligence from their parents and have excellent problem-solving skills. Chimps can also use tools like Orangutans to make their life easier, but they can also form facial expressions, and use human-like gestures and vocalizations to communicate with humans and each other.

Chimps can catch ants and termites using probes from grass stalks or vines and fish for them. They can also crack open nuts by using roots and stones, or they have been seen using wood as a replacement for a hammer or anvil. Another smart method that chimps use is folding leaves and moss to drink water from.

4. Elephants

Elephants can recognise themselves in a mirror.


One of the largest and smartest mammals is the elephant, which is described as an exceptionally smart creature. The elephant has one of the largest brains out of any mammal. Its brain contains three times as many neurons in comparison to a human. These impressive animals have a range of complex emotions and advanced cognitive abilities that makes them incredibly intelligent.

The elephant must be the one animal that proves how loving and emotional mammals can be, as the bond between a mother elephant and her young has been admired for ages. Young elephants can also be seen playing together and forming close bonds.

Elephants are another creature that has the self-awareness to recognize themselves in the mirror, without being confused about whether it is another elephant. They are also known for being social animals that communicate with one another and have various social cues to express their emotions.

1. Blue Whale

What do blue whales eat
Blue whales are one of the largest intelligent aquatic creatures.


If you thought that the dolphin was the only smart ocean-dwelling creature, you might be surprised that the blue whale isn’t far off the list. Blue whales are one of the largest intelligent aquatic creatures that we know of. The blue whale has a very large brain and is a highly social animal with great emotional intelligence.

The average blue whale’s brain weighs over 15 lbs and countless research has been done to show how intelligent these creatures are. Blue whales are excellent communicators, even though they prefer to roam the oceans alone. Their main form of communication is with their young, which mother blue whales are very passionate about.

Their large brains also help them with problem-solving, such as knowing when it is worth chasing a group of krill or leaving it. Blue whales also express themselves through communication, and they will use high-frequency clicks and whistles that can be 188 decibels loud and travel up to 500 miles in the ocean.

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The Featured Image

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A male Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) in Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia. Sumatran orangutan is endemic to the north of Sumatra and is critically endangered.
© Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I am a big animal lover that not only enjoys owning and getting to care for them, but also to write about them! I own many fish, along with shrimp, hamsters and a docile tarantula. Writing has become my passion and I am grateful to be able to write about the animals I love so dearly so that I can share my knowledge and expertise in the articles I write.

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  1. The conservation, Available here: https://theconversation.com/mammals-brains-new-research-shows-bigger-doesnt-always-mean-smarter-159141