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Animals That Can Outsmart a Human Child

Fox squirrel
Eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) in a tree. Image via Toadberry, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Human intelligence is often regarded as the pinnacle of cognitive ability in the animal kingdom. However, many animals possess impressive cognitive skills that can rival, and in some cases, surpass those of young children. Here, we explore 15 animals known for their remarkable intelligence, demonstrating abilities that can outsmart a child.

1. Chimpanzees

Chimpanzee
Alpha male chimpanzee at Kibale forest National Park. Image via Giles Laurent, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, sharing about 98% of our DNA. Their cognitive abilities are astonishing, capable of problem-solving, using tools, and exhibiting complex social behaviors. In memory tests, some chimps outperform human adults, let alone children. Their ability to plan, deceive, and communicate with sign language places them at the top of the list.

2. Dolphins

bottlenose dolphin
Image by Tom Swinnen on Pexels

Dolphins, particularly bottlenose dolphins, are renowned for their high intelligence. They can recognize themselves in mirrors, understand complex commands, and exhibit advanced problem-solving skills. Their ability to learn tricks, use tools, and communicate using a sophisticated system of clicks and whistles demonstrates cognitive abilities that easily surpass those of young children.

3. Elephants

African bush elephant
Elephants – African bush elephants in Matetsi Safari Area, Zimbabwe . Image via Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Elephants are known for their excellent memory and emotional intelligence. They can recognize themselves in mirrors, understand human gestures, and even show empathy and mourning behaviors. Their ability to remember locations, solve problems, and use tools indicates a level of intelligence that can outsmart a child in many scenarios.

4. Crows

American Crow. Image via depositphotos.

Crows and other corvids are incredibly smart birds. They use tools, solve complex puzzles, and can even recognize human faces. In experiments, crows have demonstrated the ability to understand water displacement, a concept that typically eludes young children. Their problem-solving skills and adaptability are truly remarkable.

5. Parrots

parrot
Image via Depositphotos

Parrots, especially African grey parrots, possess exceptional mimicry skills and cognitive abilities. They can learn and use hundreds of words, solve puzzles, and understand concepts like shape, color, and number. Some parrots can even engage in simple conversations, showcasing intelligence that can surpass that of a child.

6. Octopuses

Octopus color change
Rare discovery octopus color change when its asleep. Image via Betty Wills (Atsme), CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Octopuses are among the most intelligent invertebrates. They can navigate mazes, solve puzzles, and use tools. Their ability to escape from enclosures and learn from their environment indicates a high level of problem-solving ability. An octopus’s intelligence is particularly impressive considering their relatively short lifespan.

7. Pigs

Pig
Pig farm in Vampula, Finland. Image via kallerna, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pigs are highly intelligent animals capable of learning complex tasks and solving problems. They can play video games with joystick controls, understand abstract concepts, and have excellent long-term memories. Their cognitive abilities are often compared to those of a three-year-old human.

8. Dogs

Bernese mountain dog fetching stick on meadow with fall foliage. Image by Kzenon via depositphotos

Dogs are well-known for their loyalty and intelligence. They can understand human gestures, learn commands, and exhibit problem-solving skills. Some dogs, such as border collies, can learn hundreds of words and perform complex tasks. Their ability to read human emotions and respond accordingly highlights their advanced cognitive abilities.

9. Cats

cat catnip plant
Tabby white cat smelling a blossoming catnip plant (Nepeta nepetella). Image via Depositphotos

Cats, while often perceived as aloof, possess impressive cognitive abilities. They can solve puzzles, use tools, and understand human gestures and emotions. Their ability to navigate their environment, learn routines, and manipulate objects demonstrates intelligence that can outsmart a young child.

10. Rats

A brown rat. Image via depositphotos.

Rats are highly intelligent rodents capable of learning complex tasks and navigating mazes with ease. They can learn tricks, understand cause and effect, and exhibit empathy. Their problem-solving skills and ability to learn from experience make them formidable in cognitive tasks.

11. Orangutans

Female orangutan portrait. Image via depositphotos.

Orangutans are known for their tool use and problem-solving abilities. They can learn to use tools to obtain food, build shelters, and even fish. Their ability to mimic human actions, understand concepts, and solve puzzles indicates a high level of intelligence that can outsmart a child.

12. Raccoons

Racoon
Raccoon (Procyon lotor) in cumberland Wildpark Grünau, upper Austria. Image via Isiwal/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Raccoons are highly adaptable animals with impressive problem-solving skills. They can open locks, navigate complex environments, and use tools. Their ability to remember solutions to problems and learn from experience showcases cognitive abilities that can rival those of a child.

13. Bees

Africanized bee
The Africanized bee, also known as the Africanized honey bee and known as the killer bee. Image via Carlos Eduardo Joos, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bees may be small, but their intelligence is mighty. They can communicate through complex dances, understand abstract concepts like zero, and solve puzzles. Their ability to navigate using the sun and their excellent memory of flower locations indicate cognitive skills that can outsmart a child.

14. Pigeons

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

Pigeons have remarkable navigational abilities and memory. They can recognize themselves in mirrors, differentiate between paintings by different artists, and remember hundreds of images. Their problem-solving skills and ability to learn from experience highlight their impressive intelligence.

15. Squirrels

Eastern grey squirrel
An Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in St James’s Park, London, England. Image via Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Squirrels are known for their ability to solve complex puzzles to obtain food. They can remember the locations of thousands of buried nuts, exhibit problem-solving skills, and adapt to new environments. Their cognitive abilities are particularly evident in their strategic thinking and planning.

Conclusion

Dolphin doing air time out of the water
Dolphin doing air time out of the water. Image via Depositphotos

These 15 animals exhibit cognitive abilities that can outsmart a child in various tasks. From complex problem-solving and tool use to advanced memory and social behaviors, their intelligence is a testament to the remarkable capabilities found in the animal kingdom. As we continue to study and understand these animals, we gain deeper insights into the nature of intelligence and the diverse ways it manifests across different species. I hope you found reading this interesting and that you learned something new about these animals. To read more stories like this, check out the articles below:

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