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21 Animals That Are Smarter Than a 5-Year-Old

Chimpanzees
Image via Depositphotos

As humans, with all our inventions and creations, we often assume that we’re the smartest species to walk this earth. Sure we can be clever, but we should not underestimate the cognitive capabilities found in nature – we don’t have to look far to find animals there smarter than a 5-year-old!

1. Chimpanzees

chimpanzee
Chimpanzee sitting with arms crossed. Image by Anna Roberts on Unsplash.

Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing about 98.8% of our DNA. Their use of tools, complex social structures, and ability to learn sign language puts their intelligence on par with a human child.

These incredible monkeys can remember symbols and numbers, solve puzzles, and even plan for future needs. This makes them significantly smarter than the average 5-year-old.

2. Dolphins

Dog leads owner to baby dolphin
Image of swimming dolphin via Pexels

Dolphins possess one of the largest brain-to-body ratios in the animal kingdom. Known for their social intelligence, dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors, understand complex problems, and communicate using a sophisticated language of clicks and whistles.

Not only that, did you know that they have the ability to express emotions? Dolphin friends and family develop seriously strong social bonds that mirror those of humans very closely.

3. Elephants

elephant
Lone African Elephant walking over a grassland. Image by Filip Olsok via Pexels

Elephants are not just the largest land animals; they also have brains three times the size of a human’s. They exhibit memory, empathy, self-awareness, and can use tools.

Elephants can also mourn their dead, demonstrating a level of emotional intelligence that rivals that of young children. According to studies, human children only fully grasp the concept of death at around the age of 7 – making these giant animals smarter than a 5-year-old.

4. Crows

crow
Image by EBFoto via Depositphotos

Crows have been found to possess problem-solving skills comparable to a 7-year-old child. They can make tools from twigs and even understand complex concepts like water displacement.

Crows are even capable of recognizing human faces and holding grudges. Although holding a grudge isn’t the best personality trait, it definitely shows their advanced memory and learning capabilities!

5. Parrots

the most social and communicative bird species
Image by karolyn83 via Pixabay

Parrots, especially African Grey Parrots, have shown cognitive abilities equivalent to a 5-year-old human. They can learn and use human language to communicate, solve puzzles, and even understand concepts of color, shape, and number.

So far in this list, you’ve surely picked up on a relationship between intelligence and social lives. Parrots are no different and also exhibit strong social intelligence; these birds form lifelong bonds with their mates.

6. Octopuses

octopus
Image by OlgaVisavi via Depositphotos

Octopuses are solitary but incredibly intelligent creatures. They can navigate mazes, solve puzzles, and even use tools.

With their ability to escape from secure tanks by unscrewing lids and mimicking other species for defense, octopuses show us that they’re just as intelligent (and sneaky) as a 5-year-old child – if not even sneakier!

7. Pigs

baby pig
Image by Christopher Carson via Unsplash

Pigs are highly social and intelligent animals, capable of learning tricks faster than dogs. They can manipulate objects, understand mirror use, and exhibit emotional intelligence.

They display a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness and empathy. This includes the formation of close bonds with other pigs and, in many cases, even with humans. In other words, you’d be stupid to call these guys stupid.

8. Dogs

the most dog-friendly states
Image by Kat Smith via Pexels

Dogs are known for their loyalty and companionship, but let’s not overlook the impressive intelligence of man’s best friend! Certain breeds can understand over 150 words, read human body language, and solve complex problems.

What should maybe be underlined, though, is how this intelligence can severely differ between breeds, with Border Collies on one side of the spectrum (very clever) and Afghan Hounds on the other (not very clever.)

9. Rats

killing rats with salt
Image by Denitsa Kireva via Pexels

Rats are often underestimated, but they have excellent memory and learning capabilities. They can navigate mazes, recognize objects, and even play hide and seek with humans, showing a level of intelligence and social interaction that surprises many.

10. Squirrels

squirrel
A Tree Squirrel: Sciurus is a well-known genus of Tree Squirrels in North America. Image via Depositphotos

Squirrels are known for their problem-solving skills, particularly in locating and retrieving hidden food caches. Their ability to navigate through complex environments and remember the locations of thousands of food caches demonstrates a remarkable memory and spatial awareness.

In this way, squirrels are more intelligent than most of us humans. Would you be able to remember thousands of hiding spots by heart?

11. Orangutans

orangutan
Image by SURZet via Depositphotos

Orangutans are incredibly smart primates that have been observed using tools in the wild to fish for insects or gather food. They can learn sign language, understand the concept of the future, and make plans for the next day. Having an understanding of the future is very rarely seen in animals and undoubtedly highlights this monkey’s advanced cognitive abilities.

12. Bottlenose Dolphins

bottlenose dolphin
Image by Tom Swinnen via Pexels

Bottlenose dolphins exhibit exceptional intelligence through their social behavior, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities. They engage in cooperative hunting, use sea sponges as tools, and have a complex language easily puts them above a 5-year-old.

13. Bonobos

bonobo
Image by tsauquet via Pixabay

Bonobos, like chimpanzees, display remarkable intelligence. They are known for their empathetic behavior, complex social interactions, and use of tools. Bonobos can also learn sign language, demonstrating their ability to communicate and understand abstract concepts.

14. Hyenas

hyena
Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), Etosha National Park, Namibia, Southern Africa. Image via Depositphotos

Hyenas, often misrepresented in popular culture, are, in fact, creatures of remarkable intelligence, easily outmatching that of a 5-year-old human.

Their ability to solve problems is evidenced through their use of teamwork to outmaneuver predators and secure food. Studies have shown that hyenas can discern social ranks within their clans, understand symbolic communication, and even outperform chimpanzees in cooperative problem-solving tasks.

15. Kea Parrots

kakapo narrowly escapes extinction
Image via Depositphotos

Kea parrots from New Zealand are known for their curiosity and playfulness, which often translates into intelligent problem-solving abilities. They can solve logical puzzles and use tools, showing a level of intelligence that rivals young children.

16. Bees

flower and bee
Image via Depositphotos

Bees may be small, but their cognitive abilities are definitely nothing but! They can communicate through a complex dance, showing others where to find food. Bees also understand zero as a quantity, a concept that is difficult for young children to grasp.

17. Ants

leaf cutter ant
macro image of a red leaf cutter ant in Costa Rica carrying away a piece of leaf on a natural green background. Image by wollertz via Depositphotos

Ants are yet another example of how we shouldn’t underestimate the world’s smallest creatures.

They have sophisticated colony structures and can solve complex problems through teamwork. Their ability to farm, wage war, and navigate long distances showcases an organizational intelligence that is impressive.

18. Ravens

raven
In many cultures, ravens are symbols of death and transformation, embodying both the darkness and the potential for renewal. Image by Niklas Veenhuis via Unsplash

Ravens are among the smartest birds, capable of planning for the future and solving puzzles. They can mimic sounds, including human speech, and understand causality. In short, these avian animals are definitely smarter than most 5-year-olds.

19. Sea Lions

sea lion
Image by Foto-Rabe via Pixabay

Sea lions have demonstrated the ability to understand syntax and commands in a way that mirrors the comprehension of a young child. They can follow complex sequences of instructions, showcasing their cognitive flexibility and memory.

20. Pigeons

A Side View of a Pigeon Against a lush green backdrop. Image by Lenstravelier on Unsplash

Pigeons are known for their navigation skills, but they also possess a remarkable visual memory. They can recognize themselves in mirrors, differentiate between photographs, and even categorize objects, demonstrating advanced perceptual and cognitive skills.

21. Horses

Beautiful Brown Horse in America
Beautiful brown horse. By Marián Polák – Zoo Praha, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70682254

Horses have a strong memory and can recognize human faces. They communicate with each other and humans through body language and vocalizations, showing a level of social intelligence that underscores their cognitive abilities.

Animals That Are Smarter Than a 5-year-old: Wrapping Up

African Elephant spraying sand onto its back. Image by Harvey Sapir on Pexels

This list is just a small excerpt of the incredible intelligence found in the animal kingdom. It’s easy to assume that we humans are superior with all our inventions and complex societies, but like this list shows – we don’t have to look far to find examples in nature that match our cognitive abilities.

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