Intelligence and bravery are not limited to humans only as animals also have brains and the ability to think. They have several characteristics that set them apart from each other and from humans as well. The level of intelligence of animals may not be as high as that of humans but it is relatively high for some animals. For instance, the fish has a peculiar mathematical ability which is unbelievably awesome; they can count up to three, according to research on tropical angelfish.

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Snakes are tactful and do not just kill on instinct, they apply wisdom to the murder by monitoring the condition and strength of their victims before launching an attack. Snakes time the tightness and duration of a constriction which matches the heartbeat and weakening state of the prey. Only a smart creature can achieve this. The nature of some of these intelligent animals drove Scientists to investigate animals in order to learn about their skills and abilities, and to know if there is any animal that can outsmart the intelligence of man. Although none has been discovered yet, here is a list of twenty-one top most intelligent animals in existence.

21. Cockatoo

Thirsty cockatoos  Sydney Botanical Garden

Cockatoo is a kind of parrot that has a set of spiky hair on its head. They are known to display technical savvy while picking locks. Cockatoos have been tagged ‘animal master-burglars” due to their expertise in picking almost any lock. In a study at the University of Vienna, an adult male cockatoo named “Pipin” retrieved a nut after picking a lock that required removing a pin, then a screw, a bolt, then turning a wheel 90 degrees and then shifting a latch sideways. The task would have taken some human inexperienced burglars a whole day, but it took Pipin less than two hours to open the lock.

20. Goldfish


The goldfish was one of the earliest fishes to be domesticated and is one of the most commonly kept aquarium fish. It was first domesticated in China more than a thousand years ago, and it didn’t take long before its uniqueness was discovered. While most other animals prefer silence to music, Goldfish listens to music and can distinguish one composer from another. In a study, published in the journal of Behavioral Processes, two classical music pieces (Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach and “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky) were played near goldfish in a tank. The goldfish did not hesitate to distinguish the two composers and could also detect the pitch and timbre of the sounds.

19. Honeybees


Similar to fishes, honeybees can count. They can understand “same” and “different,” and can differentiate between shapes that are symmetrical and those that are asymmetrical. They can also categorize similar objects like dogs or human faces. According to a professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary’s Research Center, this ability possessed by honeybees proves that animals with bigger brains are not necessarily more intelligent than those with smaller brains.

18. Chimpanzee

Orphans Kimba and Mona at the JGI Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo

Chimpanzees portray intellectual abilities close to that of humans. They are able to make and use tools, they engage in communal hunting and can solve advanced problems. They have the ability to think way ahead and often use it when hunting by employing tactical attack tricks. This animal communicates with humans using sign language. Their brain has the capacity to store and remember information for a long period of time. Recent studies have shown chimpanzees teaching sign language to their young ones without any human interference or aid.

17. Whales

Whales are an intelligent species. They travel in large groups and rely on group feeding and attacks which are successful based on the tactics and acumen used. Whales share similarities with dolphins in genetic traits and behavior. Although intelligence is not measured by the size of the brain, the sperm whale has the largest brain of all living animals.

16. Parrots


Parrots are widely acknowledged as some of the most intelligent birds. They have the ability to retain any information and are capable of solving complicated problems. They can also do amazing things with their prominent beaks. They are most known for mimicking human speech. Parrots understands the meaning of human words and can eventually form simple sentences after a prolonged time in a home.

15. Octopus


Octopus is one of the most intelligent sea creatures. It possess the ability to invent and play games, solve complex problems and even steer through mazes. Considering their short memories, an octopus can effectively mimic others, spread cultural information and communicate using patterns, flashes and colours. They have a highly developed spatial learning ability and navigational skills. They also possess highly creative predatory and manipulative skills.

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14. Elephants

Elephants Making Heart Shape with Trunks --- Image by © Dianna Sarto/Corbis

Elephants have an excellent sense of humour, they are emotional and can speak Korean. A recent Biology study found out about An Asian elephant named Koshik who can imitate human speech and speak words in Korean that others who know the language can understand. Elephants also enjoy playing games like stick games and squirting water from their trunks. They are fast learners and even display self-awareness by being able to recognize themselves in the mirror. A pregnant Elephant when in labour chews a leaves from the Boraginaceae family tree to induce labour – self medication.

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13. Otters


Only an intelligent creature can think of the fastest possible means to achieve a goal and otters are among the few animals that have that ability. When hungry, the Otter uses rocks to smash open oysters and shellfish. They are also known to be one of the most intelligent mammals; they exhibit advanced communication skills, make distress calls and establish social hierarchy.

12. Raccoons


Raccoons are confident and fearless animals who would put up a fierce fight just to protect their kind. They are confident and usually are in control of whatever situation they find themselves in. Raccoons are best known for being exceptionally resourceful creatures, they are able to form social structures, build up small family units and develop complex relationships with others in the community.

11. Pigs


Studies show that pigs experience a range of emotions including boredom, sensitivity and emotional pain among others. They are easily trained and have the ability to play video games even better than a human kid. Pigs dream while they sleep and are able to recognize their names when called. Mother pigs sing to their piglets when nursing them.

10. Sea Lions


Sea lions are very smart animals. When trained, they are used for entertainment purposes as they play special tricks. Researchers have found that sea lions are capable of logical thinking and are able to solve this simple arithmetic: if a=b and b=c, then a=c.

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9. Rats


You can call them the “prison breakers.” Rats exhibit agility and endurance. They are widely used in scientific researches and are known to find loopholes and even get-away routes in labs. Their inborn curiosity allows them to employ critical thinking and device backup plans in problem solving. As with humans, their survival instincts makes it easy for them to do anything to stay alive. They are capable of swimming three days straight and can even jump five times their distance.

8. Baboons


Baboons possess cognitive abilities just like orangutans and chimpanzees. Unlike other creatures, baboons can identify stressful situations and cope with it extremely well. They create very complicated social structures and are known to apply critical thinking in difficult situations.

7. Crows


Crows are considered as some of the smartest birds in existence. They can count, learn, observe and even differentiate between compound shapes. Crows have been found to make knives to cut grass and leaves and hooks from stray wire which they use to get food from hiding places. They also throw nuts on the road and wait for passing vehicles to run over them so that they can access the fruits inside. Crows have a sophisticated awareness of cause and effect and they never forget a face.

6. Squids


The brain structure of Squids exhibits some complex features similar to the human brain. They are usually very curious about their environment, and have ability to learn new skills and develop useful tools that can help them contain their boredom and for protection purposes also.

5. Dogs


It is no surprise that dogs are considered intelligent; they associate with humans a lot and have more opportunity to learn from humans than any other animal. More so, humans tend to programme dog behavior to be more like theirs. Dogs are capable of using their creative thinking skills in accomplishing various tasks; but unfortunately, they don’t really measure up to other more cunning animals. Dogs have feelings too and understand arithmetic.  Studies show that dogs notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=3. The average dog can learn 165 words and signals.

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4. Falcons

Falcons are extremely skilled hunters, and this makes them to be used in investigations. Their exceptional ability to follow given commands and remember territory enables them to be useful in conveying messages also.

3. Horses


They say dogs are man’s best friend but horses are besties to men. Human friends may come and go, but a horse remains a long-term buddy if treated right. Horses have brilliant memories that allows them learn and memorize human words. They are also able to adapt to their surroundings and tend not to forget the face of their human friends. They can also hear the human voice better than dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing.

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2. Orangutan

Orangutans have proved to be self-aware of their existence through a mirror test. They know their surroundings so well and use the knowledge when traveling around the forest. They also have the unique ability to learn complicated new skills, such as sawing wood, using a hammer and nail to put things together, singing and a couple of times they have been sighted using leaves as umbrellas to keep from getting wet. Orangutans use cups to drink water and if taught, can effectively learn to use the sign language.

1. Bottlenose Dolphins

Dolphins are second only to humans in brainpower due to the size of their brain. They think, experience basic emotions and choose their actions carefully. They converse with each other in lyrical sounds and it can be heard by others from miles away. Recently, a dolphin whistled the word “sargassum,” referring to a type of seaweed commonly found in the dolphin’s marine environment. Bottlenose dolphins are exceptionally social creatures. They have the ability to differentiate between adults and children because they have been seen to relate with children with more kindness and patience.

They also recognize their own moms, their leaders and even know how others feature in the hierarchy. They also possess the special knack for finding relatives separated by long distances. Apart from whistling and clicking, they also produce burst pulses to chase sharks away. Bottlenose dolphins have keen interest for television, they are also aware of themselves and easily recognize their images in the mirror.

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