20 Most Intelligent Animals In the World

White and Blue Pigeon
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Animals keep surprising us with how smart and caring they can be. We’re learning more about their minds all the time, and it’s exciting! There are loads of clever animals out there, each with their own special smarts. Let’s check out the most intelligent animals in the world.


Adorable Dolphins on Surface of Water
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Dolphins are very smart animals! They’re really good at learning new stuff and copying others. Did you know they’re experts at using tools? Some dolphins in different groups figure out how to use mud to trap fish, and they even use sponges to protect themselves from sharp coral when they’re looking for food. They’re so clever that when humans start building stuff nearby—like new buildings, they change where and when they hunt to stay safe. 


black crow on brown rock under cloudy sky at daytime
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Ravens are brainy birds, and that’s why people often link them to signs and predictions in different cultures. In a study, they had to pick out a special key from a bunch of stuff to unlock a box with a treat inside. Guess what? They got it right 90% of the time! They were patient enough to wait 17 hours just for the chance to use that key and grab the treat. 

Great Apes

black gorilla
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When we talk about the great apes, it’s like a smartness showdown. For a while, scientists thought chimps were the champs. They use tools, remember stuff well, and some even learn sign language! Recent studies say orangutans might actually be brainiacs. One 2018 study said they’re the only ones, besides humans, who can chat about things from the past. And then there are bonobos—cousins of chimps, who’ve aced some brain tests, too. 


three gray elephants on green grass field during daytime
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The largest land animals on Earth, elephants, are famous for their impressive memory and caring nature toward their own kind. When elephants feel sad or troubled, they comfort each other with hugs and soothing sounds. But here’s something even more surprising—they seem to feel sadness when someone from their elephant family passes away. Elephants live in Africa and Asia, and they can understand some of the things humans say and even copy our voices! 


Black Crow Bird
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

These birds are known for their patience—they’ll wait for a car to crack open a nut for them. But guess what? Crows are smart, too. They can think things through like a seven-year-old human! Plus, they’re the only non-monkey animals that use tools. They use sticks and hooks to get grubs out of tricky spots. Crows are everywhere around the globe, and they can tell people apart by looking at their faces! 

African Gray Parrots

Photo of Grey Parrot Perched On Branch
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels

African Gray Parrots are brainy birds – some say they’re as smart as apes! They’re so clever that in some tests, they outdo five-year-old kids. These parrots can figure out stuff using logic – like picking which cup has a treat inside. And when the tests got trickier, they still aced them, showing off their logical thinking skills. 


whales on body of water
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Even though they’re called toothed whales, orcas are in a league of their own when it comes to smarts. They’ve got the second heaviest brain after sperm whales. These playful creatures are real puzzle solvers – they love to copy behavior and mess around with humans. And get this – they’re creative hunters, too. Some studies even suggest they might be smart enough to learn dolphin language if they’ve hung out with dolphins before. 


brown and black dragon in water
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Back in 1960, when Jane Goodall showed that primates could use tools, it blew people’s minds. But you know who else can do it? Octopuses! These strange-looking sea creatures have been caught on camera collecting coconut shells, cleaning them out, and putting them together to make homes. Sometimes, they even build walls out of rocks and stuff for extra protection in their cozy caves. And get this – they’re known for being escape artists in aquariums.


two white and brown dogs
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People love their dogs because they’re loyal, intelligent pets who understand them well. Dogs can learn many tricks and do important jobs like helping the police or guiding people who can’t see. Different breeds have different levels of smarts. Border collies—one of the cleverest—are famous for herding sheep and thinking fast. Dogs are also good at understanding emotions, like feeling worried, jealous, or excited. 


brown and white tabby cat
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We have yet to study cat smarts as much because, well, cats aren’t always up for it. But what we do know is pretty neat! Cats are experts at perceiving the world around them. Even though most studies haven’t directly linked perception to brainpower, understanding how cats sense things helps us better understand their smarts. For instance, cats rely a lot on their sense of smell. Studies show cats can tell people apart and recognize different amounts of things.


brown mouse on green grass
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Rats are also very smart, so scientists often use them for research. They’ve been part of many experiments where they learn new things and show off their problem-solving skills. But some tests—like the forced swim one, have been criticized for not being kind to rats. Since they remember what happens in the test, scientists must use new rats each time they redo it.


gray and black pigeon on brown surface
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People often see pigeons as annoying birds, like the rats of the sky. But guess what? Pigeons are actually very smart. In a study, they were taught to tell the difference between paintings by famous artists like Picasso and Monet – and they nailed it! Even more impressive, they could also use what they learned to recognize other artists’ styles. Pigeons are way more intelligent than we give them credit for.


a couple of pigs that are laying down
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Surprisingly, farm animals like pigs can be trained! They have impressive memories that can last up to three years, and they’re adaptable to surviving tough situations. But here’s the kicker – pigs can even learn to play video games. A professor at Penn State University discovered that all a pig needed was a joystick and a computer, and they could play games using their snout to move the joystick. 


brown and black bee on brown wooden stick
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Many people understand that bees are essential for keeping our environment healthy. But did you know they’re also really smart? Bee expert Stephen Buchmann says they’re self-aware, meaning they know themselves and might even have some form of consciousness. Bees are problem-solvers, too – they can easily figure stuff out and think things through. They might even have their own feelings and experiences.


black and white animal on brown leaves
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Have they ever seen a raccoon? They’re like little bandits and pretty good at getting into trash or causing trouble in homes. But here’s the surprising part—raccoons are very smart! Studies have found that they can remember solutions to tricky problems and recognize different symbols even years later. Some experts even say raccoons score well on intelligence tests for mammals.


two gray wolves
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Wolves are amazing when they hunt together. They’re like a well-oiled machine, working as a team to catch their dinner. They have to make quick decisions based on what’s happening around them. In both hunting and studies, wolves have shown they’re great at solving problems. Plus, they’re socially smart, too. They have a complicated social system with leaders and followers, showing how well they understand each other. 


squirrel on tree trunk
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Don’t let their nervousness fool you – squirrels are very smart! Imagine having to stash enough food to last all winter – it’s no wonder they’re a bit stressed out. Some experts even call them the “monkeys of North America” because of their cleverness. Studies have shown they’re excellent at solving problems, using logic and reasoning to get to their food, even if it’s hidden away. 


macro photofraphy of black ant
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Ants are like nature’s computer network. Instead of working alone, they team up with their queen and lots of other ants to get stuff done. Together, they follow set plans, like computer algorithms. They don’t just help themselves survive, but they keep their whole colony going strong. Ants might be tiny, but they’re very organized and efficient.


two brown and one black horse on green grass
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Intelligence isn’t all about size, which is good news for horses—their brains are often compared to walnuts! Wild horse herds have a complicated social order and travel in a certain order, too. Domesticated horses can understand what people are saying and feeling—and they can even match faces with voices. In a 2016 study, horses were taught to ask for a blanket by pointing to symbols on a board.


brown animal on branch
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Koalas are famous for being cute, but they’re also pretty smart! They can figure out what might happen next based on what’s happened before. One way they show their smarts is in how they deal with people. Even though they can swim, they’ve learned it’s easier to catch a ride on boats instead of swimming across water.