Many creatures are known to be smart, both those in the wild and the ones we’ve domesticated as household pets.
These animals have been known to perform complex tasks, learn, show emotions, and even behave in almost human ways.
But what is the smartest animal in the world? you might ask.
It is difficult to rank these animals as there are no agreed-upon criteria to judge, but based on our research we’ve drawn out a list of the smartest animals ranked by intelligence.
Some of these most intelligent animals include domestic dogs, raccoons, domestic cats, grey parrots, pigeons, and squirrels.
We’ve ranked these smart animals in reverse order. Read on to find out which species is the first!
Top 15 Smartest Animals In The World Ranked
15. Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
The raccoon is sometimes referred to as the common raccoon and is a part of the procyonid family of which it is the largest.
It is a native of North America and is known for being both nocturnal and omnivorous. You’d often find it in deciduous and mixed forests.
Most people don’t think of raccoons as intelligent animals, but that’s a very big misconception.
These animals are known to pick locks, and their memories are so strong that they can remember the solution to a task for at least three years.
14. Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus)
The grey parrot goes by many other names, including the Congo grey parrot, the Congo African grey parrot, and the African grey parrot.
It belongs to the Psittacidae family and is native to equatorial Africa. It is currently listed as endangered due to predators and human activities, especially trading in the international market.
Amongst the members of its family, the grey parrot is considered one of the most intelligent.
The cognitive level of this parrot is similar to that of a four to a six-year-old human child, and it has been known to recognize voices as well as learn numbers.
13. Domestic Cat (Felis catus)
The cat is a popular domestic species that is a part of the Felidae family. It is a pet in millions of homes, according to statistics.1
This species was most likely domesticated in Ancient Egypt around 3100 B.C, though this is not fully certain.2
Besides their adorable looks and rodent-trapping skills, cats are common among pet parents because of their intelligence.
They recognize faces and voices and can be trained to obey commands. Though they appear aloof most times, cats have proven to be smart.
12. Pigeon (Columba)
Pigeons are birds that are part of the Columba genus, and because of some caricatures, people don’t realize that it is very smart. Some are wild while others are domesticated.
Either way, they’ve proven to be high on the intelligence quotient rather than the dumb pests people often make them out to be.
Pigeons have participated in numerous intelligence tests, and they often excel.
They are known to recognize human faces, corresponding objects with their pictures, and even recognize themselves in a mirror.
There is some debate on just how intelligent the pigeon is, but one thing is for sure, the pigeon is a worthy candidate on this list.
11. Squirrel (Sciuridae)
The squirrel is a member of the Sciuridae family, the latter of which regroups many small rodents.
It is a native of the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, but its range has extended towards Australia thanks to humans.
Relatives of the squirrel include the mountain beaver and the dormice. This arboreal, fast rodent is also highly intelligent, which makes it a formidable—and annoying—pest.
The squirrel has adapted to living close to humans and has put its brains to use by trying to steal food.
They’ve also done some more complex actions like hiding their scent by hiding it with that of a rattlesnake.
10. Bonobo (Pan paniscus)
The bonobo is also called the pygmy chimpanzee, the gracile chimpanzee, and even the dwarf chimpanzee.
It was once considered a subspecies of the chimpanzee due to the resemblance but is now a species on its own.
By classification, the bonobo is close to humans, which should hint at its intelligence. The bonobo is capable of showing complex emotions like altruism, empathy, kindness, patience, and sensitivity.
It is a highly social animal, living in a matriarchal or gender-balanced society.
9. Rat (Rattus)
The rat is a rodent of the genus Rattus, though there are some other species not under this genus that can be referred to as “rats”.
All fall under the order Rodentia. Rats are sometimes mistaken for mice (and vice versa) but the animals differ in size.
These creatures are popular test subjects at labs, and they are also common participants at research labs. Various factors make rats the best choice for this, and one of them is intelligence.
Rats have good memory retention and can solve problems. They also figure out mazes with ease, despite their poor eyesight.
An additional evidence for the rat’s intelligence is its ability to sense empathy.
8. Octopus (Octopoda)
The octopus is a term that refers to all mollusks of the order Octopoda, species counting up to 300 species. They are well recognized by their eight tentacles, from whence they got their name.
The octopi can be found in different parts of the ocean, including coral reefs, seabed, and pelagic water.
This animal is considered one of the most intelligent invertebrates, with a brain that is the largest of all invertebrates.
It also has neurons that are all over the tentacles, which also helps it navigate its environment. The octopus can use a tool and open the lid off a jar.
7. Domestic Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
The domestic dog is termed man’s best friend for a reason. It was the first species to be domesticated, and thousands of years later it still is one of the best options for a pet.3
It is part of the Canidae (dog) family and can be found all over the world. Some dog breeds can even adapt to the cold and pull sleds across the snow.
Not surprisingly, the domestic dog is a very intelligent animals. It can understand commands, show emotions, be empathetic and recognize faces with ease.
It can also understand human gestures and is said to memorize up to 165 words on average. Some dog breeds are more intelligent than others, but overall they are all smarties.
6. Pig (Sus domesticus)
The pig is also called the swine, hog, or domestic pig. It is a domesticated mammal that is well known for its short curly tail, pink snout, and hooves.
While there are some wild swine, most of them are kept as pets or farm animals. It is a good source of meat.
Pigs don’t look intelligent because they mess around in the mud, but they are smarter than we give them credit for.
They display emotions, can solve mazes, and can even attempt playing computer games!4
5. Crow (Corvus)
The crow is a member of the genus Corvus, and it is well-recognized for its black color.
It belongs to the Corvidae family and is considered one of the most intelligent members. The genus comprises many species.
This bird has the surprising ability to fabricate tools, learn, and even understand cause and effect.
This helps the crow survive in its environment. Overall, the crow’s intelligence is said to be up to that of a 7-year-old.
4. Elephant (Elephantidae)
The elephant is a family of very large mammals, all characterized by trunks, tusks, large ear flaps, and legs-like pillars.
The elephant is the biggest land mammal currently. There are three extant species of the elephant: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant.
The ability to be self-aware and to show excellent memories are some signs of the elephant’s intelligence.
It can also be empathetic and even show emotions. Some elephants are known to mount their loved ones.
3. Dolphin (Cetacea)
The dolphin is an aquatic mammal of the infraorder Cetacea, and it is known for its friendliness. It has a vast range, with some species living even in colder regions.
The dolphin is considered just as smart as birds and primates, and with its brain having more folds than that of humans, it has the potential to be even more intelligent than us.
2. Orangutan (Pongo)
The orangutan as a term refers to all members of the genus Pongo. It is divided into three species: the Bornean orangutan, the Sumatran orangutan, and the Tapanuli orangutan.
Sadly, all three species are considered critically endangered by the IUCN. This is due to human activities like poaching, habitat destruction, and deforestation.
The orangutan is a very intelligent animal, quite close to humans. These animals have their culture and are known to develop complex tools in the wild.
They also construct elaborate sleeping nests. Orangutans have been the subject of studies for a long time.
1. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)
The chimpanzee is a species of great ape that can be found in Africa. There are four subspecies of the chimpanzee, with a fifth one being proposed.
Chimpanzees inhabit dry savannahs, evergreen rainforests, swamps, montane forests, etc. This creature is currently endangered for much the same reasons that the orangutan was.
Chimpanzees top our list because of how human-like they are. They build their tools, have a culture, and hunt as a group.
They are also able to display complex emotions like empathy, altruism, and self-awareness. Another attribute that displays their intelligence is their ability to learn.
There you have it — the top 15 smartest animals in the world. If you think humans are the only intelligent living beings? Think again!
We have a lot of animals that can measure up to our standard of intelligence, even if they may not completely reach it.
Know some other most intelligent animals we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below!
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References & Notes
- Brulliard K. and Clement S. 2019. How many Americans have pets? An investigation of fuzzy statistics. The Washington Post.
- Driscoll C. A., Menotti-Raymond M., Et. al. 2007. The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication. Science (New York, N.Y.)
- Segura V., Geiger M., Et. al. 2021. Dog domestication and the dual dispersal of people and dogs into the Americas. Anthropozoologica.
- Pigs can play video games with their snouts, scientists find. BBC News, 2021.