Animal Geniuses

Recently for the kid’s magazine I was asked to write an article on the world’s smartest species of animal. (Species, so not specific animals, so the chicken who could do math in that Liam Neeson film was out). Of course, I found that our animal friends are quite intelligent and talented. What started as surprise led to admiration and then, as usual, terror.   

How smart? Look. Whenever someone makes an observation, there are morons on the internet to point out the limits of the statement. These limits had already been assumed by most people who possess a brain, and so let’s just say that, no, most animals could not draw us a map to Munich and most animals wouldn’t be able to get us back from Jupiter after space travel gone wrong or start cooking a pot roast before in the slow cooker should we be running late home. Many animals are, however, more intelligent than those who force us to point out these things. Those people are also responsible for warning labels telling us not to clean your eyeballs with Windex or to eat chemical laundry pods to fight respiratory disease. But here we are.

Nevertheless, there are some smart animals. Should you be the type of person to mess with animals, you might want to lay off your local populations of octopus or crows. Both can recognize specific people and gain revenge on those who wrong them. Octopus have the added benefit of owning eight arms and being able to open containers. Crows understand physics. You wouldn’t piss of Neil deGrasse Tyson, so why would you piss off his spirit bird?

Raccoons can break into homes and play chess. As for which is more terrifying to me, it’s a tossup. I don’t want a racoon to break into my house, but I really don’t want to lose to one in chess. And the thought of one who can break into my house and then beat me in chess is an existential threat nobody ran by me when they were registering me for a trip on Planet X. The African Grey up the road from you is as smart as the three-year-old human child next door. I mean, virtually everything is. But still. Spooky.

Not just that, but many animals seem to be learning. A shark just carried a turtle with a plastic bag around its neck to a chip of people. How? Is Earth so endemic with people making ‘watch me save the animals’ videos that sharks have gotten wise to the practice. Also, are sharks and turtles now teaming up? I gotta be honest, I didn’t have sharks and turtles team up on my 21st century Bingo card. But then, neither did I have congressional republicans and Putin. So, there you go…

Animals are smart. Sure, we have opposable thumbs and airplanes and aircraft carriers, but you’re not ready 100% of the time, are you? No, one minute you’re just some guy bringing home his groceries and the next minute you’re being tricked into the Rook-King switch by some local racoon who broke into your house. My dog and cat are geniuses in their own way. My cat’s genius fully centers on her ability to drive a 49-year-old man clinically insane. My dog’s genius is all related to getting food or getting carried.    


Perhaps a good rule of thumb is to just be nice to animals. They may, after all, be in charge one day. Not of us, for we will thankfully be dead long before they hit their Stone Age. But for our kids’ kids’ kids’ kids, who may one day be working in the court of a local crow and his octopus friends, just be nice.

  1. #1 by FelixEmams on April 24, 2024 - 4:11 am

  2. #2 by Avenue 17 on April 25, 2024 - 12:41 pm

    So happens. We can communicate on this theme.

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