Surprising Secrets about Animal Intelligence

Julian Omidi is an advocate for the safety and welfare of animals across the world. In today’s blog, Julian looks at animal intelligence.

Do you ever wonder what your dog or cat (or pet tarantula) is thinking? Most animals are smarter than we tend to give them credit for. Of course, we all know the common myths about super-intelligent chimps and elephants who “never forget.” Those concepts are mostly based on legend and lore rather than fact. As animal brains go, in fact, chimps are indeed bright, but so are the giants of the jungle, elephants, who are anything but forgetful.

A recent study by The Discovery Channel highlighted a few of the brainiest members of the animal kingdom, and the results may surprise you. Here’s the short version of Discovery’s conclusions:

  • If the world were a schoolhouse, one of the smartest animals in the classroom would be the common crow. Studies have shown that not only do these cerebral birds understand the principle of cause-and-effect, but their raw intelligence is at about the same level as a 7-year-old human being! These animals are no “bird-brains,” but definitely have something to crow about.
  • Honeybees, despite their very tiny brains, are amazingly intelligent. They can count, distinguish all sorts of object categories and are quite good at evaluating geometrical shapes.
  • Everyone knows that certain breeds of dogs are highly trainable, but did you know that the “average” dog can learn about 165 words and signals, and can understand elementary arithmetic? Experts say Border Collies are the brightest breed, but virtually any dog can be taught simple commands and hand signals.
  • The elephant who speaks Korean: Koshik the Asian elephant can mimic human words that are understood by his Korean neighbors and trainers. He understands many more words than the five he can “say.” Koshik’s handlers report that the erudite elephant is able to pronounce the terms “lie down, sit down, no, good and hello.”
  • Among the other genius-level animals, according to the Discovery study, are fish (especially goldfish), cockatoos, snakes, horses and dolphins.

This lighter side of the animal world can serve as a serious reminder to all of us that our feathered and four-legged friends deserve respect and kind treatment at all times. That’s a sentiment to which Koshik the talking elephant might say, “Good!”

Be good to each other (and to our animal friends!),

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi, along with his brother Michael and mother Cindy, are advocates and co-founders of Animal Support and a number of other charities and organizations that are dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of all living creatures.