Top 10 Intelligent Animals (And Some Other Notable Mentions)

Animal intelligence is one subject that has always brought controversies. From mammals to reptiles, birds, and even sea creatures, you find so many animals with impressive mental abilities. The variations of intelligence across various animals also make it difficult to know which animal to place above the other in the ranking. 

For instance, some animals (like the Parrot) are very good at language comprehension, some are better at self-recognition and problem solving(like chimps), and others have exceptional memory and creativity (like crows). This is why when making a list of intelligent animals, it’s good to consider other classes of animals and not focus on the highly cognitive primates (apes) alone. 

Top 10 Intelligent Animals



The orangutans are ranked top in this list for a very unique reason. Orangutans, like chimps, can use tools, acquire sign language, and have sophisticated social systems that include rituals. One thing that distinguishes them is their cognitive ability to comprehend why a particular action is taken. 

For instance, a certain orangutan was raised in captivity, and was taught how to use tools and create a small structure; when he was released into the wild, researchers witnessed the same orangutan inventing tools from whatever he could find in the wild, and creating a similar structure to provide shelter from the rain. Given that Orangutans share almost 97 percent of their DNA with humans, it’s no surprise that they are so intelligent.

When compared to other animal species, Orangutans use the most sophisticated tools. Orangutans have even learned to use a hose to siphon liquids after being taught to use a hammer and nails. These creatures are native to Indonesia, but because of habitat degradation, they are critically endangered.



On this list of the most intelligent animals, our closest genetic relative ranks second. Chimpanzees are native to Sub-Saharan Africa and share 98 percent of their DNA with humans. Chimps are skilled tool users, and they’ve been seen improvising tools out of random objects to get what they need. These big apes also employ psychological methods, manipulating individuals within their own families to do specific tasks. 

Scientists once discovered adult members of a family unit teaching their young sign language, which is a unique fact regarding chimps. The most fascinating aspect of that discovery is that it occurred without any human intervention or urging; the chimps taught the youngsters sign language and were using it to communicate among the group. 


The bottlenose dolphin is widely thought to be the smartest mammal, however, it ranks third on this list. How intelligent is a dolphin? To be honest, it depends; there are over eight different types of dolphins, but only the bottlenose dolphin made the list of the top 10. They are the only dolphin without fused cervical vertebrae, allowing them to make human-like nodding gestures with their heads. 

Dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors, notice unfamiliar marks on their body in a reflection, recognize images on television, and have an excellent memory, in addition to being easily trainable. Dolphins have been discovered to remember calls from a mate even after a 20-year absence.

The number one reason for the bottlenose dolphin’s high ranking on this list are genuinely incredible: When they encounter other species of dolphin, they convert to a “common language” to communicate, and they have even been observed interacting with other species such as humans and trick killer whales to improve their hunting efficiency!


Elephants are known for their lengthy memories, but they are also among the most intelligent animals. Elephants have a complex social structure, and it has been seen that they participate in funeral rites for deceased family members, as well as lament their loss. 

Elephants, like humans, utilize tools and self-medicate; they will eat the leaves of particular plants to treat illness and even induce labor! They are also one of the few creatures capable of altruistic or selfless behavior: something majority of animals lack the ability to do. Elephants will give up their lives if they believe it will save the rest of the herd or their children.

African Grey Parrot

On this list of the most intelligent animals, the African grey parrot ranks first among the birds. These parrots, who are said to be as intelligent as a five-year-old human, can not only acquire human speech but also have a wide vocabulary (up to hundreds of words).

 African greys also have spatial reasoning skills, can recognize and identify shapes and colors, and can be taught the differences between big and small, different and alike, and over and under. The African grey parrot is a popular pet that can be found in a domesticated state all over the world, but they are native to the rainforests of central Africa. 


As surprising as it may seem, pigs surpass dogs in intelligence. It has been proven extensively that pigs have a far higher IQ than dogs, with intelligence comparable to that of a toddler. They can comprehend the concept of reflection at the age of six weeks, something that takes human toddlers many months to grasp. 

Pigs have about 20 different noises they use to communicate, and mother pigs sing to their babies while they are eating. Pigs react to emotion and, when appropriate, even display empathy, which is a very rare trait in the animal kingdom. 


Crows, like pigeons, are highly clever animals that have also been used as messengers. When fighting other animals, they can use complex group tactics such as flanking movements. Crows can also learn to speak and have a strong memory. They have been observed changing their migration patterns to avoid harmful locations, and have even been observed remembering garbage routes and schedules in order to sneak a fast bite to eat from the trucks! 

Crows have the greatest brains of any bird species and have demonstrated the ability to identify human faces. Despite their obvious lack of hands and arms, they can utilize tools; in fact, the New Caledonian crow creates a knife to help separate leaves and grass. A hook and line is also used by this species to obtain hard-to-get food sources. 


The only invertebrate animal on this list of the world’s most intelligent animals is the octopus. You might be wondering, as the only member of its class listed here, how intelligent an octopus is. Captive octopi have been recorded employing high-order planning with multiple stages to escape imprisonment, and others have been spotted purposely splashing water onto items outside of their aquarium. They’ve even been caught throwing rocks at aquarium glasses and opening screw-on lid jars to escape. These cephalopods are quite cunning!


Ever wondered why these birds were the number one choice to be used as messenger birds in the past? Pigeons have been shown to recognize their own reflections, demonstrating a sophisticated sense of self-awareness. They have the ability to remember individual persons and places for months, if not years.

Pigeons have been employed to transmit messages over long distances for millennia because of this memory. Pigeons can recognize all of the letters of the English alphabet, as well as distinguish between two persons in photographs.


Rats have long been utilized as laboratory study animals, and this is no coincidence. Despite the fact that their brains are little and underdeveloped, their minds function in a very similar fashion to humans, and their brain structure is also comparable. They are capable of navigating mazes, memorizing routes, and completing complex multi-step activities. 

Rats are social animals as well. When they are left alone, they show signs of despair and loneliness. Rats are one of the most intelligent animals because of their psychological and social characteristics.

Other Intelligent Animals

RavenBirds Ability to plan for future events
Can think abstract thoughts
Very good problem-solving ability
RacoonMammalsSmart and cunningHigh IQGood problem-solving ability
Domestic catMammalsAbility to learn new tricks and adapt to situationsCan be very cunning, deceitful, and stubbornAbility to understand and remember quickly
Dog MammalsWide range of intelligence, which makes them easy to trainAbility to show emotions to their owners Fairly high IQ
GoatMammalsHighly curious and inquisitiveGood memoryAbility to bond with humans and show emotions
BeesInsectExceptional learning and communication abilityProblem-solving abilityCapable of collective learning

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