11 Animals You Didn't Know Were Extremely Smart

We humans are advanced beings that, in a relatively short time, have experienced amazing improvements in all areas of life. But we aren’t the only intelligent species on Earth. There are dozens if not hundreds of organisms on the planet that could definitely be called super smart.

Most of them are animals, but some intelligent beings are plants, mushrooms, and microorganisms. Because animals are bigger than most other organisms and are more similar to us, scientists are most interested in finding and researching animals that show high levels of intelligence rather than plants or other beings less similar to humans.

By studying smart animals we learn more about ourselves. For example, how we develop, communicate, work in groups and change over time. These things are important as they help us understand what decisions we should make to further improve our society.

But today, I won’t tell you about well established smart animals like dogs and dolphins, because most people already know that they are intelligent. Instead, I'm going to show you animals most people don’t know are smart. Why are so many people unaware of them? Let’s say these animals aren’t as popular as home pets, and there are fewer studies about their behaviour.

To make sure you can recognize all super smart animals on the planet, continue reading below!

11 Octopuses


Scientists found that octopuses don’t have the central nervous system (CNS) that was always believed to be the center of consciousness. But still, octopuses are absolutely conscious and show amazing feats of intelligence despite living without the CNS.

Some examples of their intelligence are when octopuses escape from aquariums, steal food and change their behavior according to what type of people they come into contact with. One of the reasons why octopuses are so smart could be because they've been around for 230 million years. It’s quite a long term in which they could develop something like another type of intelligence we still know little about.

10 Raccoons


Raccoons are smaller and more flexible than bears, live longer than rats and have better-developed forelimbs than dogs. Moreover, raccoons are thriving under the environmental changes while most animals are facing extinction. They learn how to survive in urban areas by opening bins, stealing food from people and uniting into groups; changes that are new to their behavior.

Furthermore, psychological studies found that raccoons outperformed dogs in intelligence tests and were level with ground monkeys.

9 Squirrels


Those cute little squirrels are smarter than most people think! While you can see them in forests looking for food and may think that they are too open to unexpected dangers, this isn’t the case. According to studies, squirrels are capable of determining when it’s safe enough to open themselves to view and when it’s better to keep themselves hidden. Squirrels are fast-learners that quickly adapt to new and unexpected situations.

8 Kea


Kea are birds who live in New Zealand’s South Islands. For many years, kea were isolated from other animals which helped them to develop the distinct characteristics they have now. And these characteristics are amazing! When New Zealand was colonized by humans, people saw that kea were able to steal from cars and rubbish bins. They are smart birds and perform with almost the same results on cognitive tests as chimpanzees. They were even taught to use bartering chips to get food.

Because of that, kea are considered to be smarter than crows due to their social learning skills and higher curiosity.

7 Spiders


Why are spiders smart? It’s because they are one of the most strategic animals in the world. To survive, spiders need to determine best place to lay their web and the best spot to hide before their prey falls for into the trap.

But even when the web catches the victim, a spider’s work isn’t finished. They then need to carefully approach without making the victim run away, and poison them so that after some time a spider could digest it. It’s a lot of thinking and careful work!

6 Ants


When people think about animals, most of them forget about such creatures as ants. One ant isn’t very smart or capable of doing something remarkable, but when they work together, they become an unbreakable force.

These tiny insects are interesting as they form colonies that could be from as little as 100 to a few million individuals (what is called a “superorganism”). Ants are capable of building complex cities, protecting themselves from bigger animals and other colonies, and completing many tasks too difficult for one ant.

5 Pigs


It seems like animal farms aren’t the only suitable place to live for pigs as they are much smarter than we thought. Some of the high intelligence characteristics are the use of mirrors to find food and deceiving other pigs to get rewarded. Moreover, pigs can be a great video game partners because they can be taught to use joysticks and do fun things like to jump through hoops.

This could be because pigs were domesticated from wild boars and experienced not only body look but also brain changes that today allow them to be so smart.

4 Cows


While cows may seem like animals that only care if they have enough grass, it seems that they are smarter than they show. As it turns out, cows have a rich and complex emotional life and can make friends and enemies according to their opinion about other creatures.

Also, cows can feel powerful emotions like fear, pain and happiness, and are concerned about what will happen in the future.

3 Elephants


Elephants aren’t merely huge animals who eat lots of food. In truth, they are smart enough to use tools like sticks to protect themselves from flies, run closer to people when feeling in danger, and even paint.

But these are only a few of the amazing feats of elephant intelligence. Among themselves, they give each other names and can remember the bones of their long-dead relatives before they see the bones again. Such high emotional intelligence could be because of their huge brains that have more free space for neurons (brain cells) to form.

2 Pigeons


The reason why pigeons were (and in some places still are) used to send important messages is because they are extremely good at determining locations. Their natural-born sense of magnetism helps them to know where the North is, which is how they determine where they should go.

This sense of magnetism combined with their good memory of people and places they've been to makes them reliable to use for such purposes as sending letters.

1 Other Apes


While chimpanzees are recognized as the smartest among apes, they aren’t the only intelligent ones. The long-tailed macaque is only one example of other intelligent ape species who even in the modern age are capable of migrating to completely new regions and thrive in urban areas among people.

Furthermore, other apes like Bonobos can be taught to use sign language and symbols to tell scientists what they want to do or what they are thinking about.

Sources: NZ Herald, National Geographic, Quanta Magazine

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11 Animals You Didn't Know Were Extremely Smart