What is the smartest animal in the world?

There are many smart and capable animals out there in the world. But when you take humanity out of the equation, what is the smartest animal in the world, and how can we tell?

Dolphins are incredibly intelligent, but are they the smartest animals in the world?
Dolphins are incredibly intelligent, but are they the smartest animals in the world?  © Ranae Smith / Unsplash

The animal kingdom is full of smart, and perhaps not-so-smart, beasts.

From the humble ant to the biggest croc, intelligence isn't just the domain of humanity. It can be seen across all walks on life.

Considering that there are literally millions of known animal species, it can be hard to determine the smarties of the pack. But in taking a look at animal behavior, experts have made some pretty interesting revelations.

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TAG24 is exploring the animal record for the smartest animal in the world.

Which animals take the cake? Let's take a look.

The smartest animal in the world

There's a lot of debate surrounding which animal is, indeed, the smartest in the world.

Ultimately, though, it's a pretty easy answer: humans are the smartest.

Yet, that's kind of a cop-out, so let's look at our animal friends next.

There is actually much debate over the winner, with many experts citing that either chimpanzees or dolphins are the smartest animals on Earth, depending on your criteria.

TAG24 weighs in: Chimps are incredibly close to humans, and in some cases have even scored higher on cognitive tests than man has. On the flip side, dolphins display an unbelievable amount of emotional intelligence, empathy, and problem-solving behaviors. The jury is still out.

What are the top 10 smartest animals in the world?

There are a vast variety of different animals in the world, and many of them smarter than you would assume.

To note: This is not a traditional top 10 list, and these animal entries are in no particular order.

Here are ten of the smartest animals on Earth:

Horses: While individual horses aren't the smartest animals around, when in herds, these powerful beauties develop complex social hierarchies and display emotional intelligence.

Ants: Like horses, ants are not particularly brainy (in fact, much less so), but should be credited when it comes to a whole colony. These little bugs have remarkable memories, are highly adaptive, and work well and powerfully in a team – meaning they have the capacity to understand a common goal and carry out collective actions.

Wolves: These wild canines are incredibly intelligent and cunning, and have absolutely impeccable hunting skills. On top of their individual intelligence when on the prowl, wolves have even more heightened awareness when they're in a pack.

Cats: Our feline friends are incredibly independent, and remarkably smart. They have fantastic memories and will remember when they have been slighted. Let's be very real about something else as well - cats also have a hilarious sense of humor! They've also been said to have dreams and nightmares as their brains fall into a REM state, much like humans'.

Dogs: The debate is always whether cats are smarter than dogs, but it's kind-of a moot point. Dogs can learn all sorts of tricks and solve puzzles, have incredible emotional intelligence, and can even be used for therapy. Different breeds of dogs are also said to have varying intelligence levels.

Whales: While humans are smarter, Sperm Whales actually have the largest sized brains on the planet. And that has to count for something! Research has also shown that whale brains contain cells that are only otherwise found in humans and monkeys.

Dolphins: These sea creatures are unbelievably clever, and have a remarkable sense of humor. They have a great deal of self-awareness, are able to recognize their own reflections, and have fascinating personalities.

Chimpanzees: A chimp will use tools to solve problems, they can learn sign language to communicate, and have a great memory. Not to mention, they are evolutionarily extremely close to humans.

Octopuses: An interesting revelation is that octopuses are weirdly similar to chimps! Octopuses have even been known to use tools to assemble underwater shelters and can navigate through murky ocean waters, making them highly skilled creatures.

Orcas / Killer Whales: The Orca is technically the largest oceanic dolphin in the world, which may point to why this predator is so smart. Certain studies indicate that Killer Whales are even able to learn the languages communicated by dolphins.

Remember: This isn't an exhaustive list. Other smart animals include crows, parrots, apes, rats, and even pigs. There are many smarties out there, even if they might seem unlikely.

Ants might not be smart on their own, but as a group they are incredibly intelligent.
Ants might not be smart on their own, but as a group they are incredibly intelligent.  © MD_JERRY / Unsplash

What is the smartest land animal?

An award for the smartest land animal that isn't a human would most likely go to the chimpanzee. These unbelievably smart primates are able to solve all sorts of problems and move through obstacles, communicate with each other using rather sophisticated methods, and use tools.

What is the smartest sea animal?

Dolphins are clever animals, and arguably the smartest sea animal. These finned fellows are incredible learners, able to mimic behaviors, and demonstrate a great deal of empathy and emotion.

It's not just about emotional intelligence, though, it's also about talent and problem-solving, which dolphins have in droves.

Humans aren't the only smart cookies, animals have tons of smarts, too

While it's true that humans are the smartest animals on Earth, that doesn't mean we can't give a few other species some love.

In the end, it's worth learning more about other species as a way to better understand humanity and our environment – and to sharpen those smarts at the same time.

Cover photo: Ranae Smith / Unsplash

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