Top 10 Smartest Animals

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Earth is full of a wide variety of creatures.  Living organisms need to hear, think, see, and adapt with precision in order to evolve, flourish, and survive on this planet.  The animal kingdom is built around primates, mammals, rodents, cetaceans, marsupials, birds, reptiles, and mollusks, to name a few.  As humans, we pride ourselves on being the dominate thinkers and smartest species.  This has lifted us to the top of the food chain, but many animal populations have also been successful in breeding, expanding, and adapting to world and climate conditions.  It is amazing to see that some animals actually have a certain sense of natural phenomenon that is unknown to humans.  The best example of this is the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.  Many species of animals were seen heading for the hills before any tsunami danger was evident to humans.  Animal populations are much smarter then many humans give them credit for.  They have languages, mannerisms, rules, and goals for survival.  Here is a list of the Top 10 Smartest Animals and the reasons why they are so special.

10. Portia Labiata Jumping Spider

portia-labiata-jumping-spider

This species is a member of the Portia genus of spiders and is definitely the smallest creature on the list.  Also known as the White-Mustached Portia, they inhabit wastelands and secondary forests in Africa, Asia, and Australia.  These spiders have demonstrated learning abilities in laboratory tests and have been labeled the smartest bugs in the world.  They perform astoundingly well on numerous problem solving tasks.  One of their principle skills is luring other spiders from their webs for food.  To do this they will pluck out rhythms at the corner of a web to mimic a trapped bug or insect intruder.  If the Portia has encountered this type of spider before, then it will remember what rhythm pattern to use in order to achieve success.  The Portia labiata has great eye sight and has been seen using incredible instinctive behavior.  The spider uses a planned trial-and-error approach to hunting and shows a strong cognitive base.  As the prey comes and goes, the spider will sit and wait for hours until it has a perfect moment to strike.  Subsequently, plotting ahead and understanding that the meal will eventually return.  These spiders have also shown signs of selective attention by identifying specific objects and prey over others.

9. Rats

There are hundreds of rat species throughout the world.  Rats are one of the most studied and tested animals on the planet.  They have been research and test subjects for numerous famous and influential physiological studies.  The reason for this is that a rat’s psychology is similar to humans and they are great for experimental comparisons.  All rats learn new behaviors and tricks very easily.  A 2007 study found that rats possess metacognition, which is a mental ability that has previously only been documented in humans and some primates.  Rats have an amazing sense of smell and hearing.  They have been trained to detect land mines and bombs.  Recent research and technology has suggested that rats can even smell and identify human sputum samples infected with tuberculosis.  These animals are incredible at solving mazes.  Rats are social creatures and display signs of remorse, excitement, loss, and stress.  They dream in a very similar way as humans.  They also show amazing organizational and grooming techniques.  Just remember, rats are smart and friendly creatures so don’t fear them.  I included this funny rat clip.

8. Ravens & Crows

I have bundled these two together because they are both members of the corvidae family of birds.  This family is widely considered the most intelligent of all birds.  Crows top the avian IQ scale, which is a scientific test to determine bird intelligence.  They can count, distinguish complex shapes, and perform observational learning tasks.  Crows are extremely social creatures and will engage in mid-air jousting to establish pecking order.  Wild hooded crows in Israel have learned to use bread crumbs as fish bait, thinking in advance and anticipating the catch.  The New Caledonian Crow has been intensely studied because of its ability to use tools in its every day search for food.  This includes creating knives which are cut from leaves and stalks of grass.  They also use advanced plucking, smoothing, and bending of twigs and grass stems to produce a variety of food substances.  Ravens are similar to crows, but larger in size.  Both species are black in color and the main difference is in their vocalizations.  Ravens perform many of the same behaviors as crows, but they have been recognized for their ability to drop nuts, clams, mussels, and shells on to the highway, wait for a car to run them over, and then gather the prize.

7. The Border Collie

The Border Collie is widely considered the smartest dog breed in the world.  They usually spend their time sheep herding and handling many forms of livestock, but also make a great pet.  With physical exercise and various forms of mental stimulation these dogs are the quickest to learn.  The breed originated on the Scottish, Welsh, and English border and the dogs made an instant impact on the farming industry.  It has been determined that in certain areas of the Australian Outback a trained collie will do five times the amount of work that a human could manage.  The Border Collie dominates dog sports above all other breeds.  They excel at high jump, utility courses, fly-ball, and can even take first place in dog dancing competitions.  They have an amazing sense of smell and are widely regarded as great tracking dogs.  They can be trained as drug dogs or in search and rescue as well.  This dog will clearly recognize you as an individual personality, they will learn your routine, anticipate what will happen next, and find ways to get what they want.

6. North Pacific Giant Octopus

This creature lives in the depths of the ocean.  They belong to the cephalopod family and the mollusk class.  All species of cephalopods are known to have incredible intellectual ability.  The octopus is considered the smartest invertebrate alive.  In experimental conditions these animals have displayed both short and long term memory.  They have incredible observational learning and problem solving ability.  Octopuses have an extremely large nervous system, but only a portion is found in their brain.  Around two-thirds of an octopus’ neurons are found in cords around and in its arms.  There arms have a remarkably large autonomy.  They are masters of mimicry and camouflage.  They are professional escape artists and can often be found in the hull of crabbing boats, feeding on the catch.  These animals have incredibly keen eyesight, sense of touch, and are very fast.  There are reports of a North Pacific Giant Octopus reaching 600 pounds, with an arm span of 30 feet.  They don’t make great pets or zoo attractions.  In one recent story, an octopus flooded the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium by turning a valve and allowing hundreds of gallons of water to overflow the tank.

5. African Grey Parrot

The African Grey is a species of parrot that is found in the West and Central African rainforest.  Parrots have long been able to show that they can mimic human speech, but the African Grey can associate words with their meaning and form small sentences.  These birds communicate with each other through song, calls, and body language.  African Grey’s can easily be trained to have conversations and perform activities.  They are accomplished mimics, recreating voices and household noises perfectly.  One specific example is Alex the bird.  Alex can identify more then fifty objects, seven colors, five shapes, and a numerical value up to six.  He understands the difference between big and small, over and under, and has even showed comprehension of emotion by telling his handlers “gonna go away” when becoming bored with testing.  Then there is the story of the African Grey Parrot in Nagarey, Japan who was lost by his owners, wounded, and sent to a veterinary hospital.  While in the hospital the bird began to talk with the vet proclaiming “I am Mr. Yosuke Nakamura.”  He also gave his full home address right down to the last number.  Sure enough he was right and returned to home, but not before entertaining the hospital with song and dance.

4. Elephants

There are three living species of elephants, the African Bush Elephant, African Forest Elephant, and the Asian Elephant.  All breeds are thought to inherit the same genetic genius.  In many cultures elephants are seen as a symbol of wisdom and are known for their incredible memories.  They create mental maps and are said to remember exact locations of watering and feeding holes they haven’t visited for years.  An elephant’s brain is the largest of any land animal.  Elephants have incredible hearing and they use both their ears and trunk to listen.  They communicate by bellows, roars, trumpet-like calls, and can even transmit sound over long distances using the ground.  These animals are one of few species that have displayed mirror self recognition and can identify themselves as independent.  This is considered a base test for empathy, altruism, and higher social interactions in a species.  Elephants have been noted performing a wide variety of behaviors.  Including actions associated with grief, making music, compassion, play, and advanced use of tools.  Elephants have an incredible sense for artistic achievement.  They can paint portraits that express themselves.  Check out this amazing video of an elephant painting a three-dimensional picture of another elephant.

3. Rhesus Macaque Monkey

Besides humans, the macaque genus is the most widespread in the world.  The Rhesus Monkey is well known for its intelligence and because of this has been used extensively in biological and medical research.  These animals have an incredible memory, ability to learn, and make self-decisions.  They use facial expressions that are very similar and understood by humans.  Rhesus Monkeys have displayed suicidal tendencies, planned attack, and are very socially complex animals.  They have detailed vocal systems that share similarities with human communication.  Work on the genome sequencing of the Rhesus Monkey was completed in 2007, making it the second non-human primate to have this done.  It showed that humans and macaques share 93% of their genetic DNA.  The human and macaque chromosomes are mosaics of each other.  This species of monkey, along with many others, has been used for monkey-baiting throughout history.  This is a roman style fight between monkey’s and other exotic animals.  Monkey’s performed admirably in these competitions, winning with intelligence.  From this spawned the legend of Jacco Macacco, who was a celebrated monkey gladiator.  With incredible technique and precision he usually dispatched of his opponent in three minutes or less.

2. Bottlenose Dolphins

The cetacean family, consisting of dolphins and whales are considered the smartest animals inhabiting the ocean.  The Bottlenose Dolphin lives in warm waters throughout the world and is the smartest species of dolphin.  It has an extremely large brain and its cerebral cortex and frontal lobe are 40% bigger then a human.  The cerebral cortex is the area of the brain responsible for social communication, abstract information processing, problem solving, and higher lever intelligence.  Bottlenose dolphins are very easily trained.  They have been found to have the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas, and learn from previous experiences.  They use echolocation to hunt prey and certain forms of squeaks and whistles to communicate with each other.  It is also interesting to see that in many occasions these dolphins show remorse for other species and signs of a conscious.  In one recent story, a local dolphin named Moko saved two beached Pygmy Sperm Whales in New Zealand.  The whales had been stranded for hours when Moko showed up and led the pair through the sand bars to safety.  It was a glorious sight for locals and made national news.

1. Common Chimpanzee

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These animals can be found in the tropical forests and wet savannas of Western and Central Africa.  Chimpanzee’s learn, perform organizational thinking tasks, and have a better memory then any other animal.  They have been known to defeat college educated people in memory exams.  They can be taught to use computers to solve numerical problems.  This animal can quickly adapt and perform sign language to communicate with humans.  Chimps have been observed using advanced knowledge of tools.  This includes creating spears to retrieve animals out of small holes in trees, using branches to lure and catch prey, using stones to crack nuts, and leaf sponges to soak up water.  They have been viewed using tactical attack maneuvers, such as flanking their prey.  They often use mental manipulation within their families.  The Chimpanzee Genome Project was completed in 2005.  It showed that chimps share 98% of the same genetic DNA as humans.  It has been approximately four to six million years since humans and chimpanzee’s diverged from their common evolutionary ancestor.  Recently, chimpanzees have been seen teaching sign language to their infants without human interference.  We have just begun to understand the chimpanzees true mental capabilities.


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73 Comments

  1. I would also like to mention that chimpanzees in the wild have been known to medicate themselves. For example, if a chimpanzee has a stomach ache, he knows what plant to eat to make it feel better. In fact, humans have discovered medicinal plants just by observing the chimpanzees. Awesome article!

    • another biased list, like I said if you think about all of those physical advantages the primates have over the rest of the animals they are the dumbest. What you just said about chimps almost every other animal does it too, if chimps really were the smartest we would see police chimps, soldier chimps, chimps guiding the blind, chimps busting illegal drugs, or swimming underwater with a camcorder getting data, finding missing persons in the woods or using actual human words like some birds to try to communicate with humans

      • Seriously? how old are you? primates are the most intelligent animals ever to exist, go troll somewhere else on xbox and leave these articles for the elders.

  2. There are many resources out there on dog kennels, but I am not sure if there is one webpage for all. One popular website where private breeders and kennel clubs post listings is http://www.nextdaydogs.com/ I am not sure what area you are in, but I would suggest searching google for dog kennel and your local city or town. Local pet stores can also be very helpful in referring good and reliable kennels. Hope I helped answer your question. Let me know if you have any more.

  3. Grrr. Big deal, a chimpanzee can do that. So, if a dolphin wasn't a sea mammal, it could do what the chimp did. I also find it unfair that the cat does have its own number, when the cat is extremely smart. Puhhh.

      • Actually they’re not all that smart, animals with high IQs typically work in teams and communicate effectively. Man is a political animal and so are dogs dolphins and chimps, all of these mammals are extremely simple to train. Cats are not easy to train they are selfish and do not live in communities. What cat lovers call an independent spirit is actually a sign of stupidity – because what anybody with a shred of common sense already knows is that we accomplish more when we work in teams.

        • Believing that animals that possess high levels of intelligence “work in teams” is evidence of solipsism, or indeed the pathetic fallacy. Nonetheless, some species that show high levels of intelligence do but others, such as cats (with the exception of Lions) live largely solitary lives.

          Birds are continually fascinating me with their intelligence.

          Are we really the most intelligent species of animals? What do we mean by intelligence and how does this relate to animals?

        • I would postulate that evolving as solitary hunters/survivors would force them to be more resourcefull on their own abilitys and not that of the clan/group….thus evolving into a smarter creature.I’m not the first to say this and this is just one of the reasons the list,while interesting is meaningless.A cat is certainly smarter then a spider …although I admit the spider is impressive.

  4. i think you should've mentioned kea parrots they're quite smart, they can be a pain in the ass as well for people in new zealand

  5. Where is the pig on here? They are certainly a top 10 smartest animal. I think a more generalized approach would have been wisest when calculating the smartest species. Pigs would have been 4 on my list.

    I don't know if you don't know that they are smart, simply because they are a food source, and most people assume they are st*pid, or not. People eat monkey brains too though, so that's not a valid response. lol

  6. "rats possess metacognition, which is a mental ability that has previously only been documented in humans and some primates"

    Instead of stating who shares metacognition wouldn't it have been better to say what exactly it is?

    • Metacognition is the ability to think about and analyze ones own thinking. Why we think what we do, and what has influenced our thought process.

    • Geno Williams on

      Humans??? I Read That This Was A List For Animals,& If You Don’t Realize That Humans Are Not Animals,Maybe You Shouldn’t Be Ranked At All….!!!!

        • Humans are not animals. God breathed us into being. We have been to the moon and can send images thousands of miles in a second. We are nothing like animals. The nearest intelligent animal is dumber than a 2 year old human. Anyone who thinks we are animals doesn’t understand.

        • It’s that kinda species-centric arrogance that has seen our earth as sodomized as it is today. We are worse than animals; animals live and act to survive, and usually fulfill some important roll in the ecosystem, we live for greed and self-improvement and offer nothing back to the world but habitat destruction, increasingly acidifying oceans, species extinction, general pollution, etc etc.

        • “Humans are not animals. God breathed us into being”

          And there’s your conclusive proof that animals are more intelligent than humans. No animal would believe the same nonsense Bob clearly believes.

        • Richard Dawkins' friend on

          Amen to that! See what I did there? Loool. We are animals. Some of us like bob not including myself are deluded animals.

      • Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz on

        Humans are animals. We live eat drink and breath. We also have hair, proof that we are mammals

      • So if we’re not animals we’re…. plants? You have two choices – either we’re animals or we’re plants. All we are is distant relatives of chimps. Nothing more.

    • Humans are animals but because we have religious people we are downright dumb if you ask me,I feel sorry for their children as they have no room to choose their own faith,

      Rats should be higher in the list and dolphins should be lower ,asthey have evidence to prove that rats are smarter than made out to be and dolphins are dumber

  7. Cats are some of the smartest animals alive…..why the heck do they not have their own number? Why do they have to share a number with freaking, stupid rats and dogs? Cats are very smart and I think that who ever made this list needs to give them a number by themselves. And a high one at that! >:l

      • Geno Williams on

        When You Actually Think About It,It’s Actually A Privilege For Cats &Dogs To Be Numbered With Rats. Look How Much Time Cats & Dogs Spends Around Humans To Be Taught & Learn Things As Opposed To Rats. Rats Adapt,Improvises,Assimilate & Focalize Very Well & Intelligently,All Without Human Dictation!!!! Can You Think About or Even Image The Level of Intelligence Rats Would Ascend To If They Were Part of Humans Trainable Everyday Lives,or Should I Ask Your Cat or Dog This Question???

    • Yeah I would've let that slide if they'd just said Chimpanzee but instead they seemed to deliberately select the less intelligent species.

      Also where the hell are the pigs. They're smarter than cats or dogs.

  8. No cats, pigs or humans on this list? Most of the animals selected are considered smart because they can perform simple tasks that look cute when an animal does it…

  9. Some of the entries here are debatable, but in general, the choices are agreeable. I just thought I'd make one little comment here: that video with the fishing "crow"? Yeah, that's not a crow. That's a heron.

  10. “Monkey’s performed admirably in these competitions, winning with intelligence.”

    This reads like a 5th grader’s science report that was written in a hurry.

    I’m glad that Portia Labiata made the list, and agree that humans should have topped it…since we’re using human standards of intelligence here anyway.

  11. It depends on what you mean by “smart”. A cat will not be taught to sit because they find no reason behind it, you can teach a dog but does that really mean they are more clever?
    Look at how a cat approaches obstacles vs a non-trained dog and the cat excels with their own reasoning. At least that is what I have noticed.

    A dolphin is probably the smartest one of all animals imo, but since they are in water and do not have hands I guess they can’t solve the harder ones like the chimp does.

    • Yes dogs are more clever because they can be taught. Since they can be taught humans like them better and own more of them. And getting humans to like you and give you treats makes you smarter than the animal that doesn’t. For instance I have owned 8 dogs in my lifetime. I will never own a cat. They are snobby, wont come when called and won’t love you unless its on their own time. Hell they don’t even warn you if someones breaking in. At least the dog will bark and protect you. The cat will run under the bed and let you die then eat you after ward.

    • Orcas are the largest dolphins, so, in this top, they are also on 2nd place. However, scientists have said that dolphins are actually the most inteligent creatures on Earth. Some of them also say they are even more inteligent than humans.

      You see, if a bomb destroy every build and machine humans have created this far, the human race would disappear in a few years, because we can´t survive withouth artificial things, unlike the other animals

    • Well, yes!
      If we are not animals, so what are we? Plants? Fungus perhaps?
      If you don’t know, humans are animals just like any other. I know, it is embarrassing. But some years ago, scientists decided that Homo sapiens is just another one.

      The only diference between us and other animals, is that we have thumbs which allow us to build houses and machines…. and also destroy the environment just for pleasure and good life.

      For us, tecnology is synonym of inteligence, although it is not. It is rare the person who can survive without a weapon or any other tool.
      The humans accustomed to the benefits of technologies so much, that if we lost it, we would have difficulty to survive, even in our natural habitat (African savannas).

      • Geno Williams on

        If That’s Your Only Difference Between Animals & Humans,Them I Agree With You…..You Are Embarrassing & A Plant!!!!!

    • We are geneticly inhanced ….at least that is my suspicion…how is it we have such a high intelligence?We can design complex algorithems ,calculate space travel etc…..evolution alone does not explain this.Any fool can see that….come on how is that level of intellect necessary for survival in a forest of jungle? Obviously its not. So where did we get this added intelligence and why?

  12. I don’t trust this list completely, I mean in the elephants’ description, it added that they’re capable of artistic abilities. The elephants that paint in carnivals are not actually painting! There’s a person that tugs on the elephant’s ear to make the elephant paint in the direction its ear is pulled. Seems like these people need to do their research before posting false facts.

  13. I just wonder why a dog isn’t even mentioned!

    My dog is very clever and it shows emotions. Is a cow more intelligent than a dog? No, I can’t believe it.

    We come to a conclusion that we eat intelligent animals… weird.

    • The Border Collie is listed as #7…since it is considered the “smartest” of all dog breeds, they decided to use it as an example of a dogs intelligence. Different breeds have different levels of IQ’s just like humans.

  14. morethanicecream on

    I didn’t know that chimps have an excellent mind. They think so fast. I think that we are smarter than them at some things, and they are better than us at some things. If we weren’t surrounded by technology so often and try to gain more knowledge, maybe our brains would be able to get instant memory. I highly doubt that though. I think that this list is too broad. Smart covers about 100 categories. They should have categories for top 10 smartest animals that can talk, top 10 animals with best memory.

    • Geno Williams on

      How Many Other Animals Do You Know Off That Dose That? Remember They Are Talking About Animal “Artistic’s” & Not Human!!!!

  15. Ronald Mcloughlin on

    What abt bonobos? I read once that chimps are aggressive, violent and cannibalistic; whereas bonobos are more emotionally connective and lovable.

  16. Humans are not animals. We have a conciousness, and a spirit, and no other animals have this. And there’s even science behind it!

    Evolution is wrong.

    • LOL!!

      Watch some documentaries first. Where’s the science behind that? Oh well… it was discovered that humans are not the only animal in the world with self-awareness… something that for long was tought to be a unique ability. That is science! Not religion which is only a story and has absolutely no evidences to be truth, unlike the theory of evolution that has been studied and confirmed, and each year that passes, new discoveries are found.

      And if we’re not animals, then why do we have to eat, drink, sleep, why do we die and give birth, why do we get sick, etc, etc, etc….?

  17. I don’t know why so many are insisting that humans should have been listed as #1? Or why this turned into a debate on the theory of evolution. We already know that we have the highest intelligence of all animals (from Latin, the word animal is based on Latin animalis ‘having breath’). I found this article because I was looking for a list of animals that are considered as having high IQ’s and ordered by level of intelligence with examples of what the animal is capable of. This article provided all of that with informative paragraphs for each one and added videos of the animals displaying their abilities. If the article had listed Homo sapiens as the #1 animal with the highest IQ of any other living creature and provided a paragraph of the things we are capable of doing as well as a video with a human demonstrating these things, I would have found it ridiculous! Who was looking for an article like that? I doubt anybody was….

  18. The list is outdated… everyone knows that pigs are smarter than dogs (and any other domestic animal), an insect will never be smarter than a mammal, dolphins are already ranked at first place since 2010 (second if we count with humans), chimps are almost loosing their “title” for elephants (not yet I think), and…. where is the bear which is believed to have an inteligence level similar to the chimpazee?

  19. I was thinking why the controversy over this rating…Hmm,but if you thinks some animals are smarter than humans,may be,somebody should bring them here to defend themselves.Simple!

  20. What about Whales (other than Dolphins), Ants or Bees? Bees dancing to show the exact location of flowers in relation to the Sun sounds pretty intelligent to me! I don’t think humans can do that!

  21. I feel uncomfortable reading a list of smartest animals that is deduced by how near they approach human thinking without seeing humans listed as number one. I know it’s obvious so they left out humans but this kind of classification shouldn’t be acceptable because we have children and even some adults that don’t realize humans are an animal species.

  22. “Yeah why arent homosapiens on this list are you calling me dumb?” Jesus christ we came here to read about smart animals, not help your pathetic fragile ego. Thats why youre not on the list.

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