Top 4 Puzzle-Solving Animals

Intelligence in the animal kingdom can be measured in many ways. This list contains some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

Jun 23, 2023By Alex Guse
_AI top puzzle solving animals

Wolves hunting cooperatively can be considered intelligent. The way gorillas have adopted sign language to communicate is a definite sign of smarts. However, the animals on this list show their big brain energy by solving various complex puzzles on their own terms. Some animals on this list solve their puzzles using memory. Some use tools, while others use methods beyond our comprehension. Let’s look at the top 4 puzzle-solving animals.

4. Rat/Mouse

white rat in maze

Rats and mice are very resilient animals. This attribute helps the rodent keep trying until they solve a given puzzle. And when it comes to problem-solving mazes, there is no better than these creatures.

Centuries of digging and dwelling in tunnels have given the rat a leg up in competition when it comes to mazes. These animals will run around a maze, explore it, and learn all relevant parts of it, almost like committing them to memory.

Trials and studies have put rats in different types of mazes to show which kind of learning the subject leaned towards. In one instance, they let the animal loose in a maze with no reward at the end. The mouse would run around, assessing, and learning the environment. When a bounty was placed in the maze, the rat would go right to it, as if it had memorized the map. This type of experiment shows cognitive learning, a clear sign of intelligence.

So, while the rat may not solve the most endearing puzzles, its ability to navigate a maze cognitively is why it scurries in at number four on our list.

3. Cockatoo


Cockatoos are extremely smart; that is a given. They are infamous for their ability to mimic human speech and responses. But this list isn’t about talking birds. It’s about puzzle-solving animals, and the cockatoo is one of the best to do it!

There are hundreds of videos online of these animals using their memory and agility to solve puzzles. But what makes them interesting is their ability to make complex tools and then test them to see what works and what doesn’t.

Cockatoos have been shown to create tools to accomplish such tasks as picking locks, turning nobs, and more. Unlike the rat who will use sheer resilience to solve a puzzle, the cockatoo will make complex tools, and alternate strategies to find the one that works best.

They can also learn tricks from their fellow cohorts on how to solve puzzles. There has been evidence that they learn from each other. What is even more amazing is that both wild and captive cockatoos have shown the capacity to solve various complex puzzles.

The cockatoo can tell you itself that it is no joke when it comes to solving puzzles. This is why the avian glides in at number three on our list of top puzzle solvers in the animal kingdom.

2. Octopus


The octopus is most notably the strangest and least understood animal on our list and possibly the entire world. Some species can turn themselves into different colors and textures; others have shown brain function in their tentacles after being cut off. Still, their problem-solving ability is one of the best in the business.

Octopuses are notoriously intelligent but also infamously stubborn. If an octopus does not want to do something, it won't. There have been countless experiments trying to test the octopus's ability to problem solve that had to be scrapped because the ocean dweller was too uncooperative.

This does not mean there have not been successful puzzle-solving experiments.

Octopuses have been proven to use tools much like the cockatoo, as well as use their impressive memory like the rat. They can even recognize human faces and can judge their level of kindness. But it is adaptability that puts the octopus into a class of its own.

A study was done where an octopus was given an L-shaped block and had to fit it through 4 different holes in plexiglass, each hole oriented differently. The octopus easily put the block in the proper way and climbed through behind it in order to pull the block and reorientate it.

This push-pull problem-solving sounds easy but is incredibly hard, and the octopus did it with ease.

There is a reason why this mysterious creature from the depth’s lands at number two on our list.

1. Crow


Number one should not be a huge surprise. The crow is the all-around best puzzle solver in the game. It can use its memory to recognize faces and items. It can use and create complex tools like hooks, pokers, etc. It can adapt like an octopus and make changes on the fly. Crows have been shown to solve puzzles and problems that five-year-old human children have failed at.

Crows are the real deal. In an experiment taken straight out of Aesop's fables, a crow was given a series of rocks to put into a water tube, each with various weights, with the goal of raising the water level to acquire a reward.

The crow experimented with the various weights and figured out the right combination to raise the water. This shows the crow's ability to plan a few moves ahead, much like professional chess players.

The ability to plan, use its memory, create complex tools, and adapt to any situation is why the crow is number one on our list of top puzzle solvers in the animal kingdom.

Alex Guse
By Alex Guse

Alex is the proud owner of Chester the puggle (beagle pug mix); his first dog was Zion, an Australian shepherd, which translated into a love for animals at an early age. He has since owned many pets, from dogs to reptiles and everything in between. His true passion for animals comes from being an outdoorsman. He finds that nature is where knowledge and respect for wildlife are paramount!