Rats solve puzzles
You might not think of rats as the smartest animals, since humans are continually using them for experiments. But did you consider that the reason we use them is because they’re smart, and can handle the puzzles we throw at them? They can memorise routes (hence, the mazes), even though their eyesight is far, far less acute than ours is. And their problem-solving skills are on par with those of dogs, despite their brains being much smaller. Equally impressive, a Harvard Business Review study found that “even though the rat brain is smaller and less complex than the human brain, research has shown that the two are remarkably similar in structure and function.”
Pigs use mirrors
Pigs may as well be man’s best friend, according to a 2015 paper from the International Journal of Comparative Psychology. Like dogs, pigs have been shown to understand emotions, demonstrate empathy, solve mazes, learn simple symbolic languages and, most adorably, make best friends. As some of the smartest animals in the world, the youngest pigs even put our youngest humans to shame. In an experiment where wee British piglets had to use mirrors to divine the path to a hidden bowl of food, piglets as young as six weeks old learnt the concept of reflection within a few hours – a milestone that takes baby humans several months to grasp.
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Pigeons can memorise images
Here’s another of the smartest animals that you probably have the exact opposite impression of. Pigeons, despite their comically ‘clumsy’ walking style and seemingly vacant stares, are not as bird-brained as you might think! In a complex German study, pigeons were shown 725 random black-and-white images one at a time. They were able to differentiate between the images in an identification game that, according to Psychology Today, would give most humans trouble. We’re not saying that the next time you shoo a pigeon it’ll remember your face for all eternity, but you might want to be careful just in case!