Humans may be the most intelligent species on Earth, but they’re not the only ones capable of showing off impressive brain power. Animals are often much smarter than people realize, and there are a few species known for being at the top of the class. Chimpanzees and other species of monkeys are well-known for being a brainy bunch, but there are several animals on the world’s list of cleverest creatures that you probably didn’t know about. These six animals are some of the smartest in the world.
#1 – Pigs
In some studies, pigs have outranked dogs and chimps when it comes to the smartest species. Pigs are emotionally complex animals with surprising cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that pigs have long-term memories and are capable of solving mazes and other location-based tests. They recognize their own names and learn tricks as easily as any dog. They’ve also been documented to show empathy toward other animals and interact in social structures similar to humans.
#2 – Dolphins
Structurally speaking, the complexity of a dolphin’s brain is almost comparable to that of a human. They’re large and wired to allow for self-awareness and complex emotions. These aquatic mammals exhibit impressive problem-solving capabilities and interact with advanced forms of communication. They seem to understand the basics of using tools and work together as a pod toward common goals. There is even evidence to suggest dolphins pass on learned knowledge to other individuals.
#3 – Ravens
These large carrion birds break the mold when it comes to “bird brains.” They’re depicted in literature and mythology as being sly tricksters, and that’s exactly what they are in real life. They’re extremely resourceful and use logic to solve problems and to understand their surroundings. They learn to mimic sounds and often use that ability to create diversions in the wild. The tricky birds are known for stealing fish from fishermen and dropping rocks on people’s heads to keep them away.
#4 – Squirrels
If you’ve ever tried to keep a squirrel out of your garden or away from your bird feeder, you know how smart the woodland rodents can be. One of their go-to tricks is to protect their food stores by deceiving potential thieves. They pretend to bury their food, and while their enemies are searching that area, they scamper off to enjoy their meals in peace. Squirrels learn through observation and also possess impressive memories.
#5 – Octopuses
Octopuses may not have backbones, but that doesn’t stop them from topping the charts when it comes to animal intelligence. Jennifer Mather has been studying octopuses for over 35 years, and she explained in Scientific American how the invertebrates make conscious decisions based on advanced problem-solving strategies. Octopuses are notorious escape artists and can memorize the way out of a maze.
#6 – Elephants
Elephants have the largest brain of any land animal, and they use those extra neurons in ways that make them emotionally and intellectually complex. They have long-since been known for being empathetic creatures that provide comfort to those in distress and mourn the dead. Using and manufacturing tools is a skill most commonly attributed to monkeys, but elephants also use their trunks to manipulate objects. They neutralize electric fences with logs, throw objects at opponents, and modify branches to make the perfect fly swatters.
There is no IQ test to accurately test an animal’s intelligence. Different species have different strengths, and it’s impossible to objectively rank their abilities. It’s clear, however, that animal intelligence shouldn’t be underestimated.