Animal intelligence could stretch to more than just an elephant’s excellent memory! As these examples will reveal.

The intelligence of animals surpasses what we realize. But the first question is, how is animal intelligence measured? There have been many experiments carried out that could prove animal intelligence really exists. We only have to look at Pavlov’s Dogs study to see how animals can quickly learn to associate a sound with behaviour or action.

But other, far more compelling research shows activity is more evident than we thought when it comes to the brains of animals.

Here are just a couple of impressive things that reveal animal intelligence at its peak!

  1. Animals are spiritual beings

Of course, you heard that right. There is evidence to suggest animals can react emotionally to their surroundings. They can feel and respond to grief, e.g. in a death, and can express the wonderful feeling of existence itself.

Psychologists Marc Bekoff and his colleague Steven Kotler looked at whether animals really experienced spirituality. Bekoff and Kotler found ample evidence that animals can have a morally conscious and emotional intelligence.

Whilst Bekoff and Kotler’s work is anecdotal, Darwinian theory supports it well. The belief of Darwin was evolutionary continuity. This belief states that there were no different kinds of intelligence, only different degrees with the various species.

“The bottom line is that if we have something, they (other animals) do too. It would behoove us to study the questions at hand rather than dismiss them because animals can’t possibly do or experience something that we think is uniquely human.”


Only humans were self-conscious, linguistic, moral, and rational. This is what we believed for a long time. Now we know the truth. There’s more startling evidence as well. It seems that animals could possibly think about pains and pleasures from the past,

Darwin said. They actually possess “excellent memories and some power of imagination”.

  1. Solving puzzles is just as easy for crows as 5-year-old children.

Again, this could be the title of a well-thumbed kids’ comic book. But experiments recently conducted, and many of them, suggests truth in the crow’s intelligence. These are indeed creatures with remarkable talent, especially when it comes to solving problems.

The University of Auckland researchers discovered that crows noticed that liquid rises when objects are dropped into tubes of water, water which held a treat. They would then be able to reach the treat that was inside. If the water levels were higher, they could get the treat faster as well. Objects that sank instead of floated would also reduce the time it took for the treat to come to the top of the tube.

Crows can also bend a wire to fish treats from small tubes. This was also quickly realized by the research team. This is why researchers compare a crow’s intelligence is to 5-7-year-olds.

  1. Elephants can show empathy

An elephant never forgets, right? But, they can also seemingly show understanding and empathy. During controlled experiments, elephants showed their desire to work together with tasks. When learning to pull a rope to acquire a treat, they did this together instead of alone.

Contrary to what some may believe, elephants do not ponder long over the dead. They have been known to eat their dead or at least, sniff them and walk away. As for their reaction to remains, such as bones, an elephant may linger for a while or become aggravated for some unknown reason.

A recent study proves such behavior: When an African elephant sees a skull from its own kind, it stares longer than when rhino or buffalo skulls are introduced. It’s the same with sticks as opposed to ivory.

The elephant is smart enough to know the difference between something originating from their kind and something else entirely.

  1. Dogs can be taught words

We’ve all tried to teach Fido how to shake hands and Rover to cartwheel. But John Pilley, Psychology researcher, went a step further and trained his dog, Chaser to recognize over a thousand toys, by name. What’s more, over 90% of the time, Chaser could recognize certain toys when Pilley asked for them.

Chaser has learned even more, including recognizing verbs and nouns taught by Pilley Instructions are easy for her, she can put her paw and nose on objects, and even pick them up.

This is an achievement of intelligence for canines, and all it took was hours of intensive training. Chaser is special and not all dogs can learn at her pace.

  1. Picking locks are easy for Cockatoos

Finally, let’s learn about the cheeky Cockatoo. They too display animal intelligence enough to understand tricky puzzles and solve them, all for a delicious treat. A 2013 study by Alice Auersperg, revealed the difficulty of such puzzles, and that the bird actually has to first open the box. Here’s how the trick worked.

Inside the box was a cashew. So, the cockatoo had to pull out a bolt, remove a pin, take out a screw, turn a wheel, and removed a latch by using a sliding technique. All these things, the Cockatoo accomplished fairly easy.

Without opposable thumbs, as humans have, this did take a long time. It did take two hours for the Cockatoo, but eventually, the bird solved the intricate puzzle. A bird had a goal and completed the goal, a goal that wasn’t an easy and quick task. This says quite a bit about the bird’s perseverance, wouldn’t you say.

Whilst this research can be contested, it could also lay the foundations for new ways of thinking about animal intelligence. Next time you spend time with your pet, maybe you can watch them more, and learn a few morals and lessons about determination.



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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Dion

    Great read…going to show my friends this. They both have dogs and birds.

    1. Sherrie

      Thank you for reading, Dion. 🙂

  2. Ryu

    My problem with all of these examples is that animals can be trained to perform all sorts of tricks on command.
    The raven one is cute but..since it has a leg band, how am I to be sure that it wasn’t trained to do things for a reward?

    The dog is cute too but again, we do not know what is going on behind the scenes. We see close-ups of the dog with the owner off screen so we don’t know if it is being given cues of some sort.
    When the dog is told to get “meow” most of the time the dog isn’t even looking around but rather seems to be waiting for some sort of command or cue.

    A better example of showing how well it thinks is to give it completely new toys like a ball, dolphin, spider, etc then have it retrieve, say, a ball or whatever without the word being attached to the appearance of just one toy.
    In other words, instead of having it recognize just one toy based on a name…se if it can actually recognize a teddy bear or ball..something that it has NOT been introduced to so there is no “process of elimination”.

    Please don’t misunderstand..I think animals understand a great deal more than we ever give credit for but to me these examples are just not very convincing.

    The dog is really super cute though.

    1. Sherrie

      I see your point here, Ryu. But as a person living with animals every day and since my childhood, I’ve seen remarkable attitudes, expressions and actions from the animals I Loved and love still. I would love to see these things tested further, as you suggested.

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