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41 Animals That Are Smarter Than a 5-year-old

Animals smarter than a 5-year-old
Image by Petra via Pixabay

When we think of intelligence, what usually comes to mind is being able to read, write, or do maths. I’d say that this is a pretty narrow view of it – intelligence comes in so many other different forms. While these animals might not pass a spelling test, they have so many other skills that make them smarter than a 5-year-old (or most adults for that matter.)

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. Elephant Shrews

elephant shrew
By Francesco Rovero (MUSE) – Own workThis file was uploaded by MUSE – Science Museum of Trento in cooperation with Wikimedia Italia., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92350665

Elephant shrews are known for their remarkable problem-solving abilities and spatial memory. They create complex networks of trails and paths in their habitat to escape predators and find food.

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.

22. Cats

coats of cats and their personality
Image by J_Blueberry via Pixabay

Cats are known for their independence and agility, but they also possess a high level of intelligence and emotional depth. They can learn through observation, solve problems, and communicate their needs and desires to humans (which you probably can attest to if you’re a cat owner.)

23. Sheep

sheep
Image by Andrea Lightfoot via Unsplash

Sheep have great memory – they can recognize and remember individual faces of both sheep and humans for years. They also display emotions and have a complex social structure within their flocks.

24. Goats

pygmy goat
Image by Krzysztof Kowalik via Unsplash

Goats are curious and intelligent animals capable of solving complex puzzles to reach food. Not only that, they understand human gestures can form strong social bonds with both goats and humans (much like doggos.)

25. Llamas

llama
Image by Dong Cheng via Unsplash

Llamas are not just pack animals; they are highly intelligent, capable of learning complex tasks through repetition and positive reinforcement. They also show a wide range of emotions and can communicate their feelings to other llamas and humans.

26. Camels

Camel in the desert, Wahiba Oman. Image via Depositphotos

Camels have a reputation for being stubborn, but this often masks their intelligence. They have excellent memory, can navigate long distances in harsh environments, and have been known to show empathy towards fellow camels and humans.

27. Kangaroos

kangaroo
Image by Ethan Brooke via Pexels

Kangaroos possess a surprising level of intelligence, with studies showing their ability to communicate with humans in a manner similar to domesticated animals.

28. Mice

mouse
Image by Joshua J Cotten via Unsplash

It’s not for nothing that mice often are used in scientific research – it’s because of their intelligence and ability to learn and remember tasks. They can navigate mazes, solve puzzles, and even exhibit empathy towards other mice.

29. Chickens

baby chicken
Image by Prince Abid via Unsplash

Chickens are not just farm animals; they have been shown to demonstrate self-control, basic arithmetic skills, and can remember over 100 different faces of their species.

30. Turkeys

Wild Turkey
A pair of wild turkeys on the edge of a forest. Image via Depositphotos Image via Depositphotos

Turkeys have a bad reputation for being not so bright, but research shows they are intelligent and social animals. They have excellent geographic memory and can recognize each other by their unique vocalizations.

31. Bowerbirds

bowerbird
By JJ Harrison – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=123242221

Bowerbirds display unique courtship behavior, where males build elaborate structures, called bowers, to attract mates. These structures are not nests but rather artistic displays decorated with objects like shells, leaves, flowers, and even discarded human items, all meticulously arranged.

32. Squids

squid
By Nhobgood Nick Hobgood – Kaugalingong trabaho, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11464510

Squids, like their octopus cousins, show signs of intelligence through their problem-solving abilities and complex behaviors. Amazingly, they can communicate using color changes and patterns on their skin.

33. Wolves

baby wolf
Image via Unsplash

Wolves are known for their complex social structures and ability to work as a team. They can solve problems, use strategy in hunting, and communicate effectively within their packs.

34. Ferrets

ferret
Image by eluxirphoto via Pixabay

Ferrets are playful and intelligent animals that can solve puzzles and even learn tricks just like dogs.

35. Giraffes

Giraffe
Image by Juan Gaspar de Alba via Unsplash

While not often recognized for their intelligence, giraffes have shown the ability to solve problems and have complex social interactions. Did you know that they communicate with each other through body language and sounds?

36. Zebras

Cape Mountain Zebra
Image by Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE – Cape Mountain Zebras (Equus zebra zebra) mare and foal …, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56467130

Zebras have sophisticated social structures and can recognize each other by their unique stripe patterns. They are highly social animals, demonstrating complex problem-solving skills and memory.

37. Deer

baby deer
Baby deer. Image by Julie Marsh via Unsplash

Deer are not just graceful; they’re also intelligent, with excellent memory and navigation skills. They can remember the locations of food sources and danger zones, and they use sophisticated signals to communicate with each other.

38. Otters

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) preening itself in Morro Bay.
Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) preening itself in Morro Bay. By “Mike” Michael L. Baird, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3101074

Otters are playful and smart, known for their use of tools to open shells. They have complex social behaviors, can solve puzzles, and are capable of learning by observation.

39. Raccoons

raccoon
By California Department of Water Resources – California Department of Water Resources, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56584662

Raccoons can open locks, remember solutions to tasks for up to three years, and have dexterous hands that allow them to manipulate objects and tools.

40. Meerkats

meerkat
Meerkat cubs. Image via Depositphotos.

Meerkats teach their young how to eat venomous scorpions by removing the stingers, demonstrating advanced learning and social teaching behaviors.

41. Skunks

spotted skunk
Image by JayPierstorff via Depositphotos

Skunks, known for their defensive spray, also possess intelligence, particularly in their ability to forage and use spatial memory to remember the locations of food sources.

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

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

Are you as blown away as I am by the things these astounding animals are capable of? From the bowerbird’s intricate nests to the squid’s ability to change color, most of these skills are things we humans could only dream of.

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