- Chimps are the smartest non-human animals. They can grieve loved ones’ passing, learn languages, and make and use tools.
- It’s actually true that an elephant never forgets. They have brains, not just brawn, and can recognize old friends after spending years apart.
- Baby pigs can learn their names before they’re two weeks old.
- Octopi are master problem solvers and can figure out puzzles.
What are the 10 smartest animals on Earth? We’ve given it some thought and compiled a list. Though it’s debatable, depending on who you ask, humans are number one for the complexity of our brains, communication, and ability to manipulate our environment.
But some of the animals on this list have impressive skills when it comes to learning, understanding, memory, communication, problem-solving, spatial awareness, self-awareness, and collaboration. Some animals have even mastered the art of deception!
We tend to think of animals as leading a pretty simple existence, and it’s mind-blowing to discover what many creatures are capable of. So, without further ado, let the countdown begin!
Raccoons may gravitate to the garbage, but they’re also super smart. In the early 20th century, research conducted by ethologist H.B. David proved that raccoons are expert lock pickers who can easily recognize moved or rotated devices! “Trash pandas” also boast incredible memories and can remember puzzle solutions for up to three years!
Raccoons learn at a faster rate than other animals and are thought to be smarter than dogs and even smarter than a toddler. They are excellent at adapting their behavior and learning new things. Raccoons have been seen using tools, washing their food, and using their own vocal language.
Raccoon Fun Fact
Raccoon hearing is so acute they can make out earthworms moving underground. Click here to read more about raccoons.
When a team is comprised of 50,000 individuals working shoulder to shoulder, democratic decision-making and delegation are vital. And it’s those qualities that keep honey bees alive and thriving. The genius insects have perfected the art of cooperation, landing them on our smartest animals on Earth list.
Bees have been studied extensively and scientists are amazed at their intelligence. Bees can perform simple arithmetic, communicate in dance language, and have a rich emotional life.
They’re also non-violent — another intelligence indicator. For example, when scout bees disagree about new hive locations, they have a dance-off instead of fighting to the death! How civilized — and fun!
Honey Bee Fun Fact
Today, honey bees live worldwide. However, scientists believe they got their start in Southeast Asia, where you can still find wild honey in forests. Click here to read more about honey bees.
Once upon a time, an octopus named Otto lived at a German aquarium. Mellow and chill, Otto wasn’t fond of the facility’s bright lights, so he took matters into his own…tentacles…and sprayed water on the overhead lamps to short-circuit them! Otto also threw rocks at the glass when he wasn’t feeling famous and wanted some alone time. Octopuses, they’re just like us!
Otto isn’t the only intelligent octopus. Individuals of the species have proven time and again that they’re masters at solving puzzles and escaping captivity.
It sure doesn’t hurt to have 9 brains, one in each arm and a central brain to coordinate everything. Octopi have been seen using tools often, walking on stilts, planning elaborate defense systems, solving puzzles, playing tricks, and recognizing human faces.
Octopus Fun Fact
Octopuses are the smartest invertebrates — i.e., animals without backbones — on the planet. Click here to read more about octopuses.
Have you ever played the game memory? The winner matches the most tiles by best remembering where everything is on the board. Well, guess what? If you ever played memory with a pigeon, you’d probably lose and lose hard! A study revealed that pigeons can hold over 700 images in their heads at a time!
Moreover, before the electronic age, when telegrams were a sci-fi fantasy, militaries used pigeons to ferry messages between posts. Basically, pigeons are Mother Nature’s GPS droids.
Pigeon Fun Fact
Pigeons mate for life and usually care for two chicks at a time.
Pigs are super smart. They easily navigate mazes, understand emotions, learn sign languages, and even have best friends with whom they prefer to spend time! Believe it or not, baby mud dabblers are smarter than baby humans! Point of fact: piglets master self-awareness faster than infants. Plus, little pigs know their names by two weeks old! It takes humans a few months.
Pigs are considered the fifth most intelligent animal in the world, even more than dogs. Pigs are capable of playing video games, have an excellent memory, and are highly social. They have been measured to have a very complex cognitive system and are capable of spatial learning and problem-solving.
Pig Fun Fact
Despite their filthy reputations, pigs are clean animals that prefer cold weather over hot. Click here to learn more about pigs.
Humans have a 1/40 brain-to-body-size ratio; dolphins have a 1/50 one. What does that mean? Well, it’s complicated. But for our smartest animals on Earth list, it means dolphins are wicked intelligent.
Dolphins are so smart they can mimic humans — and they even know how to cheat! Kelly, a research dolphin at the Marine Mammal Studies lab in Mississippi, hoodwinked her way to more treats during an action-reward drill. During the observational period, trainers taught the dolphins to exchange pieces of trash in their tanks for food. Kelly caught on pretty quickly and gamed the system by ripping her “trash” into multiple parts to double her culinary rewards!
Dolphins are the second smartest animal in the world, with humans being the first. They have complex problem-solving brains and are even capable of understanding abstract problems. Dolphins are often seen communicating through language, exhibiting a social life and self-awareness, and even planning for the future.
Dolphin Fun Fact
Dolphins are the national animal of Greece.
The Isaac Newtons of Birding World, crows know physics! OK, they may not be proficient in binomial theorems, but they understand how water displacement works, which is a lot more than other animals can do! Crows also plot new flyover paths to avoid trigger-friendly humans that hunt crows during migratory season.
Crows have been known to remember faces they see for many years, mimic sounds, speak their own language, use tools, plan ahead, and solve complex problems. Crows are thought to be as smart as a 7-year-old child.
Crow Fun Fact
A group of crows hanging out together is called a “murder of crows.”
Elephants rank among the largest terrestrial mammals, and they’re also some of the smartest animals on Earth! Famously, the pachyderms have incredible memories. Not only can they remember watering hole routes hundreds of kilometers long, but they also recognize each other after years of separation.
Take, for example, Jenny and Shirley, who both ended up in a Tennessee elephant sanctuary. The moment their eyes locked, the two ladies did the elephant equivalent of running towards each other with arms wide-open. It turned out they had briefly traveled in a circus together 22 years earlier!
Elephant Fun Fact
Like humans, elephants are one of the few species on Earth that can look in a mirror and realize they’re gazing at themselves. Click here to read more about elephants.
Chimpanzees are a lot like humans. They learn verbal languages, mourn the passing of loved ones, and make tools. Also, like humans, their intellectual prowess is determined by both genetic factors and environmental ones. To learn more about our remarkable cousins, head over to the Jane Goodall Foundation website.
Chimps can recognize themselves in the mirror, speak sign language, use symbols for objects and combine them into a language, and make their own tools.
Chimpanzee Fun Fact
Chimps share 95 to 98 percent of DNA with humans. Click here to learn more about chimpanzees.
We don’t mean to boast, but humans take the smartest animal cake. We have superior reasoning abilities and can manipulate environments in astounding ways. However, if humans were better able to communicate with other animals, we might just discover they think we’re the dumbest species on Earth!
Human Fun Fact
Humans produce enough saliva a year to fill two bathtubs. Click here to read more about humans.
That’s our list of the 10 smartest animals on Earth. Do your picks match ours?
10 Smartest Animals on Earth Summary
|#1||Humans||Reasoning, communication, environment manipulation|
|#2||Chimpanzees||Relationships, tools, communication|
|#4||Crows||Observation, spatial awareness, tools|
|#5||Dolphins||Communication, mimicry, deception|
|#6||Pigs||Self-awareness, communication, relationships|
|#7||Pigeons||Visual memory, navigation|
|#10||Raccoons||Memory, problem-solving, spatial awareness|
10 Smartest vs 10 Dumbest Animals on Earth
Here’s a fun comparison. While some animals have ultra-high IQs, others just don’t cut the mustard when it comes to intelligence. Here’s a look at the 10 smartest vs the 10 dumbest animals on earth!
|Rank||Smartest Animals||Dumbest Animals|
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