Top Ten Intelligent Animals That Don’t Need To Go Back to School


Now that the summer has ended, kids across the country are heading back to school, but sometimes it can be easy to think that we’re smart enough and don’t need to learn anything else. After all, we’re the smartest ones around, aren’t we? As research into animal intelligence advances we are learning that humans aren’t the only smart species. Many animals have advanced communication and social systems, they can use tools, are self-aware, can empathize, think abstractly and problem solve. To keep up with these animal smarty pants we all better get back to class!


octopus in the ocean They play, have personalities and are excellent problem solvers. Researchers have observed them accessing their choice of clams to eat and making decisions about which ones they think are easiest to open.


jumping dolphins
They have big brains relative to their body size and are self-aware (able to identify themselves in a mirror). Their complex social structures and communication skills are studied by researchers as many believe they are one of the most intelligent animals.


elephants greeting

They can remember the locations of water holes hundreds of kilometers apart, returning to these spots yearly. They have complex social lives that show they are able to cooperate and empathize with each other.



They are closely related to humans, differing by just over one percent of DNA. They have sophisticated corporative hunting techniques, they use tools, are capable of abstract thought and complex communication.

Corvids (Family of birds that includes ravens, crows and magpies)


They use tools, can remember large feeding sites and adapt their behaviour based on what other members in the group do. They can even learn to put small objects like recyclables into a blue box.


organgutan in a tree

They understand gift giving, weighing the costs and benefits of exchanging items with other individuals over time. They have an advanced understanding of their forest habitat and are able to quickly build nests, navigate the tree canopy and remember routes to locate food. Some orangutans can learn to communicate using sign language.



They use sophisticated methods to navigate; they use the sun’s position, gradient of odors, wind direction, ground texture and step-counting. The diverse skills they have for navigation is likely greater than the ones applied by humans.

Killer whale

killer whale

They have the second-biggest brain among oceanic mammals and are adept at sensing and analyzing their water habitat. They have local language and culture that they learn from their pod.

African Grey Parrot

African Grey Parrot

They can apply logical reasoning to figure out where food is hidden and some have been shown to associate words with meanings and form simple sentences.


bee hive

They have swarm intelligence, similar to ants, meaning that as a group they are capable of complex behaviours. Bees are excellent navigators and are able to communicate the location of food through dancing for their hive mates.


  1. Those elephants are so cute! Did y’all know that African bush elephants live 60-70 years? Crazy!