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10 of the Smartest Animals on the Planet

 People like to attribute the term ‘intelligence’ only to fellow humans, believing that self-awareness, the capacity to communicate with others, solve complex problems and work together to achieve a goal are all uniquely human traits. These 10 animals are here to challenge that belief, as all of them are incredibly clever and skilled in some or all of the aspects we mentioned above. Some of these animals can even outperform humans on some tasks! And while we do recognize that each animal has its unique intelligence that we humans can't grasp, the ability to show their smarts to a different species - humans, is more impressive, don't you think?

1. Raccoon

These little masked rascals will steal anything they can get their little hands on. Cute they may be, but their most impressive feature is their astonishing problem-solving ability. As a matter of fact, these little burglars may be even better at opening things than the average human.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet Raccoons

In one study, they were able to pick complex locks after less than 10 attempts. These adorable animals also have an incredible long term memory, with different experiments showing that raccoons can remember solutions to various tasks for a period of 3 years. Watch a short demonstration of these problem-solving skills in the video below:

2. Bottlenose Dolphin

Dolphins are incredible creatures: they're graceful, very friendly and unbelievably smart. For one, dolphins are one of the very few animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror, as you will see in the video below. But self-awareness is by far not the only proof that these marine mammals are very intelligent. Bottlenose dolphins have a very complex social system, a sense of self, a whistle-based communication system and they even have names.

the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet Bottlenose Dolphins
They can understand when other dolphins in their group get sick and even have facial expressions. All these facts make many researchers believe that dolphins are the second smartest animals on the planet after humans. Fun fact: The intelligence of these creatures prompted the Indian government to officially recognize dolphins as non-human persons, close down all dolphin parks, and declare their rights to life and liberty.

3. Octopus

Octopuses are cephalopods, they have no bones and 9 brains, with one mini-brain sitting in each of its eight individual tentacles and another one linking them. It's exactly this neural system that's responsible for the unbelievable problem-solving abilities of octopuses, as each tentacle acts on its own to accomplish a task at hand.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet octopus
What tasks do we mean? In a scientific setting, octopuses were shown to be able to open jars, free themselves from closed containers, go through mazes and even build shelters from coconut shells. Octopuses are notorious escape artists, devising complex plans to free themselves from fish tanks in captivity. Observe these incredible skills in the video below showing an octopus freeing itself from a screw-top jar.

4. Orangutan

The intelligence of these redheaded primates is often underestimated, although many scientists actually believe that orangutans are much smarter than chimps and bonobos. Like many primates, orangutans are capable of using tools, often creating makeshift umbrellas from tree leaves and having an array of specialized hunting tools.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet Orangutan

Apart from that, orangutans can be taught sign language, much like other primates, such as gorillas and chimps. What's even more interesting is that orangutans, unlike any other known species apart from humans, are capable of "calculated reciprocity," which involves keeping track of the exchange of goods between two individuals over time. Learn more about these incredibly smart creatures in the following video.

5. Crow

Meet the smartest bird species on the planet, although we're more than sure that you've seen a crow already, probably without realizing how smart these raptors truly are. Not only are these birds known to use tools, such as sticks that they use to dig out food, but they are also capable of planning a task that consists of several tasks. The crow in the video below, for example, can use rocks to raise the water level in a dish in order to retrieve food.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet crow

Furthermore, crows are very apt at recognizing human faces and frequently score among the highest on IQ tests devised for animals. Wild crows in Israel have even learned to pick up bread crumbs and use them as bait for fishing, how cool is that!

6. Elephant

The intelligence of elephants is a long established fact. For one, they are capable of mourning the dead and have an excellent memory, but few people know that they're also among the very few animals that recognize themselves in the mirror and are able to engage in teamwork, both of which suggest that they are capable of complex social behavior.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet Elephant
Apart from that, elephants are known to use tools, such as branches as fly swatters. Watch these two clever elephants work together to get a reward in the following video: 

7. Sun Bear

This endangered bear species from Southeast Asia is probably the cleverest, but also the smallest bear on the planet. These guys are omnivorous and they often have to be very inventive to acquire food. Sadly, due to deforestation, many sun bears have been raised in captivity during the past few years, but this allowed humans to observe this otherwise quite elusive animal more closely.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet sun bear
For one, some of the bears were trained to use a touchscreen computer. Others have observed how sun bears are skilled problem solvers, too, capable of finding their way around difficult puzzles only primates can do. The second half of this video shows some of the incredible problem-solving skills in action.

8. Border Collie

Finally, a familiar and friendly face! Dogs are among the most intelligent of animals, and definitely a species we, humans, get along with the best. For one, dogs are very skilled at reading human body language, but they're also good problem solvers and have an excellent memory.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet Border Collie

Of all dog breeds, the border collie is considered the cleverest of all, as these fluffy and cheerful doggos can learn a lot of words! One specific dog named Chaser, for example, learned 1,022 nouns throughout its lifetime, the largest number known to date. A video showcasing Chaser's incredible memory and language understanding is right below.

9. African Gray Parrot

Another popular pet, the African gray parrot is impeccable at imitating human speech, so much so that one escaped bird in Japan was successfully returned to its owner because it repeated the owner's name and address. It has also been reported that gray parrots can associate human faces with the voices of those humans.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet African Gray Parrot
Apart from mimicking human voices and recognizing faces, these birds are also very good learners. They have been taught number sequences, as wells as over 100 words, with Dr. Irene Pepperberg's parrot Alex being able to differentiate between colors, materials, shapes, and objects. Don't believe us? Watch Alex compete with preschoolers in several linguistic tasks in the video below:

10. Chimpanzee

How could we possibly forget about the chimpanzee, our closest evolutionary relative? Not only are these animals skilled builders and tool users, but they also exhibit self-awareness and group cooperation, all evidence of a high level of organization. Some chimps can learn sign language, they can recognize themselves in the mirror and can even choose other chimps to cooperate with them in a specific situation.
the SMARTEST Animals on the Planet Chimpanzee

And while some chimpanzees are definitely smarter than others, there are specimens capable of outperforming humans in memory tasks. The chimp shown in the video below, Ayumu, has been taught to count from 1 to 9 and understands the order of these numbers, which he's glad to show in a computer task he's been trained to do. Here's Ayumu working hard at his computer in the video below:

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