5 Smartest Mammals in the World

Written by Sarah Psaradelis
Updated: October 8, 2023
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Mammals have gained a reputation for being among the smartest animals on earth. Some mammals have excellent cognitive abilities. They can solve problems, adapt to their environment, and display emotional depth. We have compiled a list of the smartest mammals in the world. These creatures display advanced cognitive abilities and intelligence similar to humans.

Are Mammals Smart?

Mammals are warm-blooded animals that feed their young with milk from mammary glands. They reside both on land and in the ocean, ranging from apes to the majestic blue whale. Smart animals have advanced cognitive abilities to show emotions, communicate, act socially, and learn new adaptive behaviors for better survival.

These are some of the smartest mammals in the world:

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1. Orangutans

Bearded Animals



can quickly adapt to its environment.

©Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com

Orangutans are one of the smartest primates or land animals on this planet. This is because they belong to the ape family, which humans evolved from. Studies consistently reveal how intelligent these animals can be. They learn quickly and adapt to their environment.

A wild orangutan on an island in Borneo used a spear to catch fish! The male ape hung from a tree and dipped the spear into the water to impale the fish. This shows the species’ ability to think of new ways to adapt to their environment. They also use tools like rocks to crack open nuts.

2. Dolphins


Having large brains, dolphins can be acutely self-aware.

©iStock.com/Michelle de Villiers

Dolphins are aquatic mammals that are 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 that they are highly intelligent and can solve many different problems.

Chimps can use tools like orangutans to make their life easier. 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. They can also crack open nuts by using roots and stones. They often use wood as a replacement for a hammer or anvil. Additionally, chimps fold leaves and moss from which to drink water.

4. Elephants


Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror.


One of the largest and smartest mammals is the elephant. 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 proves how loving and emotional mammals can be. The bond between a mother elephant and her young is incredible. Young elephants also play together and form close bonds.

Elephants possess the self-awareness to recognize themselves in the mirror, without confusion. They are also social animals that communicate with one another. In fact, they 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’d be wrong! The blue whale is also extremely intelligent. 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 pounds. 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 help them with problem-solving, such as deciphering which groups of krill are worth hunting. Blue whales also express themselves through communication. They use high-frequency clicks and whistles 188 decibels loud that travel up to 500 miles in the ocean.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Sarah is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering aquatic pets, rodents, arachnids, and reptiles. Sarah has over 3 years of experience in writing and researching various animal topics. She is currently working towards furthering her studies in the animal field. A resident of South Africa, Sarah enjoys writing alongside her pets and almost always has her rats perched on her shoulders.

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