11 Of The Smartest Animals On The Planet

It’s amazing what we can learn from the animal kingdom. As our research becomes more advanced, we learn how animals communicate with one another and adapt to their environments and their ability to learn new skills.

Animal Intelligence

Sea Animals

Humans are believed to be the pinnacle of intelligence. Most experiments to test animal intelligence follow what humans can do. 

Many animals have problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, and even self-awareness. Survival wouldn’t be possible without intelligence. They must find food, locate their habitats, outwit predators, and reproduce with their species.

The Smartest Animals In The World

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The animal kingdom has many brainiacs. Check out these smartest animals on earth and see what you think. How would you rank them?

1. Elephant

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Elephants are incredibly intelligent animals. They have a larger brain than humans, even on scale. Elephants have some of the most complicated social structures in the jungle. 

Altruism, or an animal’s sacrifice, is one of the indications of intelligence in an elephant. Their altruistic approach to protecting their young is one of the traits of an amazingly intelligent species. 

1. Elephant

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Here are some other fascinating facts about elephants:

  • Depending on the type of illness, elephants medicate themselves by chewing the leaves of specific trees. 
  • They bury and mourn their dead loved ones. 
  • Elephants’ incredibly playful nature helps them build dexterity and spatial reasoning. 
  • Nimble trunks help them manipulate tools such as paintbrushes. 
  • They can recognize themselves in the mirror and see something has been added to their visage.

2. Orangutan

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Orangutans are considered the smartest primates over chimpanzees. Orangutans are native to Indonesia. They are sadly critically endangered because of habitat loss. 

They have been taught to saw wood, siphon liquids through a hose, and even use hammers to nail structures. 

2. Orangutan

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These actions could be marked up as a rite of training, but orangutans are especially intelligent because they understand why we use these actions in the wild. 

For instance, an orangutan was taught to build a protective structure using tools available in the wild. When released, he was observed to be building the same structure.

3. Monkeys (Baboons and Mandrills)

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There are many species of monkeys, such as Africa’s several baboon species. These primates often play games with tourists, causing mischief. 

They can play as the teacher’s pet and a class clown. One not-so-obvious fact about olive baboons is that they can understand numbers

3. Monkeys (Baboons and Mandrills)

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One study revealed that baboons have a natural aptitude for solving basic numerical problems without prior training or influence from experimenters.

Mandrills are another shrewd primate. They are smart and can surprise you with their moves. One captive Mandrill is even seen cleaning his toenails with splinters of bark or broken twigs!

4. Rat

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Rats have a similar psychology to humans, making them the most viable choice for experiments in the lab. 

They have metacognition (the act of thinking about thinking), which is only found in humans and a few other primates only.

4. Rat

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Here are some other fascinating facts about rats:

  • Rats hearing and smelling abilities are so high that they can detect landmines and bombs. 
  • Rats can identify human sputum samples containing tuberculosis bacteria. 
  • Display clear emotions: rats also show signs of excitement, loss, stress, and remorse.

5. Chimpanzee

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Chimpanzees can learn and perform cognitive and creative tasks with better memory than other animals. 

According to research, chimps share 98.8% of the same genetic DNA as humans and are native to sub-Saharan Africa. They can communicate with humans in sign language, which is truly incredible. They have also been seen teaching their infants sign language without human interference.

5. Chimpanzee

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Here are some other fascinating facts about chimpanzees:

  • Chimpanzees have been observed to use advanced language and tools; they can build what they have in creative and adaptive ways. 
  • Chimpanzees use tactical attack maneuvers like flanking their prey rather than attacking head-on; they attack from the sides. 
  • Chimpanzees are capable of social manipulation, which means they can trick others to get what they want

6. Crow

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Crows are one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth, and everyone knows how they snatch things from kids and adults in no time.

Creative thinking is the hallmark of intelligence, and crows are the best at it, topping the avian IQ scale.

You can imagine their cunningness in throwing clams, nuts, and shells on the road to see cars run over them. They do this to see if the hard shells are broken and enjoy the treats inside. 

6. Crow

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Crows can naturally differentiate between complex shapes and carry out observational learning tasks. 

The new Caledonian crow has been seen cutting leaves and stalks of grass. They can also hook out stray bits of wire and use it to get grubs out of hiding places. 

7. African gray parrots

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African gray parrots are said to be the best among birds who can mimic human speech. 

Research shows they can accomplish some cognitive tasks and understand words.

In 2019, a parrot named Griffin completed a series of tasks to infer where nuts are hidden in cups based on the shown empty cups. He always picked the correct cup unless researchers made him gamble on a 50-50 chance.

8. Pigeons

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Pigeons can recognize their reflection, which is a complex sense of self-awareness.

They can also recognize specific places and people over months and even years and know the difference between two people in pictures. 

8. Pigeons

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Pigeons have served for centuries to carry messages over great distances because of their memory.

Romans used them 2,000 years ago to aid their military. Pigeons can even recognize the difference between two people in pictures.

9. Squirrel

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Gray squirrels possess impressive memory and behavioral traits that contribute to their success in problem-solving and adaptation.

Squirrels are known to hide food in several locations and will remember the type of food they’ve put in each spot. They will even re-bury their food several times a year so other animals will not find it.

9. Squirrel

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Scientists from the University of Exeter made an interesting discovery about gray squirrels. These clever creatures could remember and solve a problem even after a two-year gap. 

What’s more impressive is that the squirrels quickly adapted their skills to a modified version of the test.

Dr. Pizza Ka Yee Chow, from Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, suggests that this ability might explain why grey squirrels thrive in urban areas. 

10. Dolphins

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Dolphins are quick learners that mimic human behavior, solve problems, and demonstrate self-awareness. Both dolphins and whales have bigger brains than humans. 

10. Dolphins

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Here are some other fascinating facts about dolphins:

  • They use sound with echolocation to find objects. 
  • Researchers documented that dolphins have been seen using shells and other ocean objects as toys for play. 
  • Dolphins have sophisticated communication skills. They use tail and flipper slapping on water, spy hopping, leaping out of water, and more body language to communicate.

11. Dog

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The dog is “man’s best friend” and one of the smartest animals on earth. They vary in canine intelligence, as collies, German shepherds, and golden retrievers are among the most intelligent dogs.

Read More: 8 Smartest Dog Breeds in The World Ranked By Intelligence

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Final Thoughts

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We can only somewhat rank animals based on how shrewd they are. Many more animals couldn’t make this list, which doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Animals show different kinds of intelligence, so we can’t correctly measure it. 

To appreciate their smartness, we should never forget that they are sentient creatures that deserve respect and care. We can learn a lot from these beautiful animals as long as we take the time to observe and appreciate their behavior.

Final Thoughts

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The smartness of animals is their ability to adapt to and survive in their environment. Animal intelligence is on display, from little squirrels to mighty elephants. Why not plan a trip to the zoo for more?

This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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