Top Ten Most Intelligent Animals in the World

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Posted on January 23rd, 2008

Animals can be as shrewd, cunning, and mentally amplified as you. Below is a list of the top 10 animals that could pass the MENSA exam.

10. Holy Cow!

a fat cow
A cow ready to be milked
Cows produce milk, that’s true. Did you know that cows can produce more milk if they listen to the song “the Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel? The cognitive abilities of cows are now being studied. Experts say that cows, like us, worry about the future. If farmers care for them very well, cows feel immense happiness. Cows, like humans, can also nurture grudges for months—even years. And would you believe that cows can even have “MOOod” swings?

9. Dr. Octopus

an octopus
An octopus moving on land
Do you know that cephalopods, like squids, octopus, and nautilus can stare and watch you intently from inside an aquarium? Scientists have ranked cephalopods at the top of the invertebrate intelligence scale. One notable experiment at Naples Zoological Station revealed that octopuses can demonstrate “observational learning”.

According to scientists, many vertebrates don’t have this ability. The sluggish octopus has the ability to recognize and remember different shapes, sizes and brightness of objects. In another experiment, an octopus lunged at a red ball instead of a white one after observing another octopus do the same thing. Some experiments also revealed that octopuses can be taught to open soda cans.

8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

the cuckoo bird
A yellow billed Cuckoo bird
Did you know that of all bird species in the world today, cuckoos are the most mischievous? Female European cuckoos secretly lay their eggs on other birds’ nests. It is called "Brood Parasitism" when unsuspecting adults take care of an imposter chick. The young cuckoo is born with a scoop-like facility on its back. When the cuckoo offspring hatches from its egg, it instinctively gets rid of the competition by using its back to push other eggs or chicks off the nest. Sinister yet effective, cuckoos have successfully bred with this kind of lifestyle. This is the main reason why fiction writers have used the cuckoo as an inspiration. An example of this is "Village of The Damned", a movie adapted from the novel “The Midwich Cuckoos”.

7. This Little Piggy

two pigs
A couple of pigs in the mud
You’ll be shocked to learn that pigs are proven to be very insightful animals. Scientists say that pigs have complex cognitive abilities. In laboratories, pigs play video games better than primates. Pigs can also dream and recognize their own names. In some studies, researchers identified more than 20 different squeals that pigs objectively respond to. Pigs listen to music. Mother pigs are known to sing for their young and newborn piglets can identify their mother’s voice upon birth. Researchers were also able to teach several pigs to jump over dumbbells and fetch frisbees.

6. “Buzz” Lightyear

a swarm of bees
Honeybees and their hive
Bees exhibit complex cognitive processes many insects don’t show. They can use the sun as a compass. They can learn sounds, colors, and locations. Bees have an uncanny sense of time. Bees have a language often referred to as the honeybee dance. This dance is their form of language. They dance to communicate distance, elevation and quality of the food source. (If you’re interested in keeping bees, read how to keep bees)

5. Flipper

show dolphins
Dolphis performing in an ocean park
There is no way dolphins wouldn’t make this list. They are so intelligent; their brains are bigger than humans. Yes, dolphin brains are the biggest cranial mass in the entire world. Aside from being obedient animal entertainers, dolphins have the ability to pull off practical jokes on other animals. Dolphins have been spotted plucking a bird’s feather from behind and tossing manta rays like frisbees. Scientists say only animals that are on top of the evolutionary ladder have time to play. (Want to learn swimming with dolphins, see how to swim with dolphins)

4. Dumb Dumbo?

an elephant
A massive elephant walking in the jungle
The elephant brain is very heavy. It weighs in at about 5 kilos or more. Other large mammals, such as rhinos and hippos don’t have that kind of brain size. Scientific research has proven that elephants have the ability to use different objects in creative ways without being taught firsthand. Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, was the first to record the elephant’s remarkable intelligence. When an elephant and rhino fought in the Roman arena, Pliny said that he saw the elephant grab a metallic-bristled brush lying on the ground and used it to prick the eyes of the Rhino. There are a lot of elephant intelligence stories like using palm leaves as fans. Some have seen elephants scratch their backs and take out ticks by using sticks. Some zoo keepers say they saw elephants ward off barking dogs with branches.

3. Heckyl and Jeckyl

a crow
A crow in its nest with its youngs
Do you remember the two magpies from the ‘Woody Woodpecker show? Heckyl and Jeckyl are two birds full of clever antics. Reality tells us that the antics of Heckyl and Jeckyl are, in fact, real. Blackbirds, such as crows, ravens, and magpies are the most intelligent among all bird species. Blackbirds have the largest hyperstriatums, which means they have the ability to count objects and make complex decisions. These birds are very manipulative as they let other creatures do the work and afterwards, seize the opportunity for themselves.

Ravens can call wolves and coyotes so they can tear apart carrion and make it an easier meal for birds. When a crow is eating its meal in front of a man, the crow will not directly go to the nest of the female. Instead, it hides the food first so that the man cannot trace the location of its nest.

2. Free Willy

killer whales
Two orcas or killer whales in an ocean park
Like dolphins, whales are very intelligent. In many instances, scientists have observed that whales are very emotional animals. Whales can experience feelings of anguish, joy, and parental love.

This was the case when an older dead whale was swept ashore during the 1990s. Spectators saw two orcas constantly visiting the site where the dead whale, believed to be their mother, was located. Every other day, these two orcas would swim together and visit the beach site again and again as if paying their respects to their mother.

1. King Kong

a couple of apes
A couple of apes waiting in the jungle
Apes and humans have something in common. Aside playing on monkey bars, humans and apes are both primates. What differs is that apes are classified as “non-human primates”. Since humans and apes belong in the same class, it is not surprising that they are almost as bright as humans.

Apes are “thinking animals”. They are one of the few animals who know how to use and make their own tools. Some of the well-known apes are gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. Just recently, "Koko the Gorilla" made headlines by learning over 1,000 words of American Sign Language.

These are just some of the most intelligent animals on the face of the planet. This only goes to show that the gift of life is unique and diverse at the same time.


If there are intelligent animals, there are also Animals with Amazing Abilities, and if an animal have this two qualities, that animal can sometimes be dangerous. Here are the Top Ten Dangerous Animals in the world. Some animals have this intelligence and abilities while a very few of them have disabilities and abnormalities. Check out the The Top Ten Most Bizarre Animal Body Parts

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