25 Most Intelligent Animals On Earth

Posted by on June 3, 2013

Although most people wouldn’t typically associate extreme intelligence with animals, that is a bit of a misconception. While they are obviously not able to match the computational and meta cognitive power of the human brain there are certain things some animals specialize in for which their minds are uniquely adapted. In some ways you could say they are smarter (or more functional) than even humans at performing these tasks. These are the 25 most intelligent animals on Earth.



SquidsSquids are said to be among the brainiest invertebrates in the world. Their brain structure is different from other invertebrates in the ocean, as they share complex features similar to the human brain. Like human beings, squids can be very curious about their environment. They have the ability to learn new skills and develop the capacity to use tools that can either help them repress their boredom and protect them from harm.


SpidersSpiders are among the smallest creatures to possess a proportionately high level of  intelligence. Especially the White-Mustached Portia spiders. These spiders dwell African; Asian; and Australian forests and have demonstrated special learning skills.


AntsThough they are small, they have the ability to creatively withstand calamities that would that would wipe another species. Ants are often seen coordinating in massive groups to build nests and hunt for food; and they accommodate to their environment very well. All notable points when it comes to measuring intelligence.


BaboonsBaboons are old world monkeys who have cognitive abilities very similar to chimpanzees and orangutans. In terms of the way they behave, one can see how these creatures resemble people. Unlike other animals, studies show that at some level baboons know how to identify stress and cope with it. They create extremely complex social systems and can think critically when confronted with difficult situations.

Sea Lions

Sea LionsStudies have shown that sea lions possess the ability to think logically and can actually deduce if a=b and b=c, then a=c.


OrangutansJust chimpanzees, the intelligence of orangutans is reflected in the way they imitate human actions. They also have the unique ability to learn complicated new skills, such as sawing wood or using a hammer and nail to put things together. Orangutans have the ability to understand their surroundings in a more abstract way than other animals so they know how to acclimate to some very harsh environments.


PigeonsThere’s a reason why pigeons have been used numerous times throughout history on places like battle fields .  They are extremely good at Geo location and studies have shown that they have an amazing ability to remember people and places throughout the course of their life.


CrowsAlong with pigeons, crows are among the most intelligent birds in the world. They have the ability to solve complicated problems and adapt to tough situations which can easilybe seen in the way they gather their food and collect resources.


SheepOf all the animals, sheep are believed to possess the most powerful memories with some research showing them to be better than humans in certain situations. For example, they have the ability to identify when a fellow sheep is lost in their flock.  Moreover, they exhibit a wide range of emotions and response to various things going on around them which also shows a high level of intelligence.


RaccoonsKnown for being resourceful; raccoons are capable of forming complex social relationships and also make use of complex tools when problem solving.


HorsesHorses have always held a special meaning to humans, apart from the fact that they are very rideable and get us places they are also teachable, have good memories, and are able to respond to complicated commands quickly under stress.

Rhesus Monkeys

MonkeysKnown for having displayed suicidal tendencies and well planned attacks in a group; it’s safe to say that Rhesus Monkeys are extremely smart and resourceful.


FalconsExtremely adept hunters falcons have always been used in the same way as pigeons, to convey messages and do reconnaissance.  Their ability to follow commands and remember territory is formidable.


ratsOnce could easily underestimate the mental capacity of a rat. While they can be revolting sewer dwellers that Hollywood has made them out to be, they are also quite smart. They have very good long term memories and are excellent when it comes to adapting to changing situations.


OwlsEven during the time of the ancient Greeks, owls were already seen as intelligent animals. While this may appear to be true due to pre conceived notions about their “wisdom” this is the “burst your bubble” list item. That’s right, they are actually not that smart compared to other birds.  Technically they shouldn’t even be on this list but how else would we shatter everything you thought you knew?


Josef is a video game fan that loves tech, gadgets, computers, and anything else that's digital. He also likes to scour various news and information around cyberspace, and sharing it with others.

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  • Eric Barker

    I noticed you showed a picture of an Orca when you listed Whales. This isn’t technically false but a little confusing since Orca’s are a type of giant Dolphin, and Dolphins are considered a type of whale (cetacean). A little strange since you also listed Dolphins on another slide. It probably would have been better to show a typical baleen whale like a humpback or blue whale. Most toothed whales are dolphins/porpoises or closely related to them (Belugas and Sperms). This is a case of some inconsistent naming conventions… no one talks about Killer Dolphins or Beluga Dolphins, but they are. I do wonder whether many toothed whales are smarter than baleen whales, being active hunters and tending to form more complex social groups, but I’m no expert on the subject.

  • Valeria Aguirre

    What about ferrets :( i want to buy one but i don’t know if they are intelligent.

    • Eric Barker

      From what I’ve read, ferrets are extremely intelligent. I’m surprised that no weasels are listed here (racoons are distantly related to weasels though). They’re phenomenal problem solvers, and are known to use “tools” in at least rudimentary ways. Honey Badgers, especially, are ridiculously smart. Just saw a video the other day of a honey badger that can literally get out of ANY confinement it’s presented with, many times employing very complex problem solving methods and trial & error techniques.

  • Dratier

    Crows, Pigeons, Owls and Falcons are on the list. No other birds. Yet
    ants are on it. Therefore, it is safe to assume that ants are more
    intelligent than every other bird in the world? I think that birds
    should have been clumped together into one category, as well as

  • Eric

    Where are the Gorillas on the list? Koko knows sign language and I am pretty sure the ability to learn human communication would make them highly intelligent. Cats are smarter than dogs. They are more independent though which makes them harder to train. Its not due to lacking cognitive function.

  • Loki Keyser

    kay this is bull*** simply because I do not see rabbits on the list and rabbits are some of the smartest animals on this planet, Don’t believe me? Look it up. They are so easily trained even easier than cats and dogs.

  • Johnny C.

    decent list but the order is clearly wrong, the only one that would’ve been right is chimpanzees if humans were intentionally excluded from the list (in the title)

  • B18

    I love Orcas. I am not sure where they should be on the list exactly but I believe they should be above dolphins or at the same number since in some regions of the world dolphin’s are Orca’s prey. Orcas come out on top becuase they know they are stronger, and know they can outlast a dolphin using strength as their strategy. But dolphin’s aren’t smart enough to come up with a solution that counter acts the Orca’s strength. Interesting stuff… They both definitely are 2nd or 3rd (Below Apes/Primates and Humans). The list is interesting I think they put them in order of animals that have smart characteristics. Which they should of made a list including not just their capability to learn, but also their capability to teach what they have learned to other’s in their species, which I know atleast Orcas, Dolphins, and Primates do (there are definitely more I don’t know). I believe that way of looking at it shows a different height of intelligent. (Sorry if I misspelled words I am only an undergrad and am very immature in ways) haha.

  • Steve Bakewell

    WHAT !? Humans are NOT even in the LIST!?