It’s no secret that animals can be trained to do lots of things. Some, however, learn to do amazing things on their own. Animals can be much smarter than we actually give them credit for. Some can even perform tasks and functions better than humans can! Here are ten animal accomplishments that you’ve got to see to believe.
10. Instrument-Playing Elephants
The elephant plays an important role in Thailand. It’s the country’s national animal, it’s seen as a symbol of royalty and mental strength. This large animal has helped the Thais in warfare, during harvest time and with transportation. But, did you know that they provide entertainment as well? No, not circus acts. Musical acts–an entire orchestra, to be exact! Formed in 2000, the Thai Elephant Orchestra is a 16-member musical ensemble that plays a variety of instruments, including the gong, bass, drums, and harmonica. And, get this: The orchestra has recorded three albums! The final CD, titled “Water Music,” was released in February 2011.
According to Dave Soldier, the group’s co-founder, the orchestra rarely does any public performances, however “four of the same elephants perform music for a few minutes a day at the Conservation Center, including a bit of solo free improvisation on a giant marimba.”
9. Published Cat Author
In 1975, Jack H. Hetherington, then a professor of physics at Michigan State University, co-authored a physics paper with F.D.C. Willard–who, by the way, just happens to be a Siamese cat! The paper, titled “Two-, Three-, and Four-Atom Exchange Effects in bcc 3He,” provided an in-depth look at atomic behavior at different temperatures.
Okay, so the cat didn’t really help write the paper, but Hetherington chose to list him as a second author. That’s because a colleague told Hetherington that Physical Review Letters, the journal he sent his paper to, typically only published papers using words like “we” and “our” if the paper had multiple authors. Well, Hetherington had used the royal “we” throughout the paper, even though he was the only author. So, rather than go back and correct it, he just decided to make Chester, his Siamese cat, a co-author.
8. Soccer-Playing Bumblebees
A team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London taught bumblebees how to play “bee soccer,” according to a study published in the February 23, 2017 issue of Science. For the study, the bees had to move a ball about half their size into a designated target area. Surprisingly, they were successful. Those that observed a demonstration via a live or model demonstrator were the most successful. They learned to play bee soccer more efficiently than those that observed the ball move via a magnet or those that weren’t given a demonstration at all. “Instead of copying demonstrators moving balls over long distances, observers solved the task more efficiently, using the ball positioned closest to the target, even if it was of a different color than the one previously observed,” the study read. “Such unprecedented cognitive flexibility hints that entirely novel behaviors could emerge relatively swiftly in species whose lifestyle demands advanced learning abilities, should relevant ecological pressures arise.”
7. Jump-Roping Beagle
Purin, a multi-record-breaking beagle from Japan, set a record for the most jump rope skips by a dog and a person in one minute. Purin, and her owner Makoto Kumagai, set the record–58 skips, by the way–in Ito, Shizuoka in Japan. But, this isn’t the first record this pooch has broken. In 2015, she earned a place in the Guinness World Records 2016 Edition for the most balls caught by a dog, using the paws, in one minute. Purin caught 14 of them. And, in March 2016, Purin set the record for the fastest 10m traveled on a ball by a dog. Her time was 10.39 seconds.
6. Slam-Dunking Bunny
Move over Bugs Bunny, there’s a new Space Jam rabbit in town! Bini, as he’s called, found his way into the Guinness World Records: Amazing Animals book for doing the most slam dunks in one minute by a rabbit. His record? Seven slam dunks in sixty seconds. One day in their home in Los Angeles, Shai Asor, Bini’s owner, “noticed that Bini was playing with a ball and a box, and that he kept pushing the ball towards the box. From this, he realized he could train Bini to perform basketball movements – and they practiced until the clever cottontail became a pro!” Guinness World Records said in an article on its website.
5. Architect Octopuses
A group of octopuses built an underwater colony back in 2017–or, at least that’s when it was discovered anyway. A team of marine biologists from Alaska Pacific University discovered the octopus colony, fondly known as Octlantis, in Jervis Bay, off eastern Australia. The octopuses used rocky outcroppings and piles of discarded clam and scallop shells to build what Atlas Obscura refers to as “elaborate dens” on the seafloor. At the time, the colony was occupied by at least 15 octopuses.
Gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses, are known for being loners, so to find them together in a colony like this was surprising to the researchers. “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms,” professor David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University told Quartz.
4. Counting Pigeons
No, this isn’t about a rock band founded by Counting Crows. It’s actually about pigeons learning to do math.
Damian Scarf, a comparative psychologist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, spent a year training pigeons to grasp the concept of ordinal numbers, much like rhesus monkeys were able to do in a 1998 study. The pigeons had to order three sets containing one to three objects on a computer screen. The objects consisted of different shapes and colors, for example one yellow rectangle, two red ovals, and three yellow bars. The birds had to peck at them in the correct sequence, and if they did, they were given a food reward. “They had to learn that it was the number of items that mattered, not the color or shape,” Scarf told Science magazine. Even when presented with new numbers of shapes, the pigeons still got it right. Their scores were far above chance, Scarf said.
3. Surfing Mice
Australian boat builder Shane Wilmott trained a troupe of mice to surf, according to The Telegraph. Wilmott hand-crafted miniature replicas of surf boards to teach the pet mice how to surf. They travel several feet on the surf boards. “Contrary to popular belief, mice are actually unbelievable swimmers, Wilmott told The Telegraph. Wilmott said that he teaches them to surf in the bath first, then he moves on to the backyard pool, but only if they’ve built up their confidence. From there, it’s on to the beach. “It’s a really stimulating way for them to live. Much more than just being stuck in a cage all their lives,” Wilmott told The Telegraph.
2. Driving Dogs
Back in 2012, two New Zealand dogs passed a driving test, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported. In an effort to increase pet adoptions, the two pooches were taught to drive a car to show the potential of unwanted dogs. “Some people think that by getting a shelter dog they’re somehow getting a second class citizen; we’re with these dogs every day, we know how wonderful they are,” Auckland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) chief executive Christine Kalin told ABC.
1. Civic-Minded Dog
A pit bull terrier was elected mayor of Rabbit Hash, KY, in November 2016. This marks the fourth election the terrier, known as Brynneth Pawltro, has won. According to APR, Brynneth won by a landslide over eight opponents, which included a cat and a donkey. Since Rabbit Hash is an unincorporated town, it doesn’t need a mayor, so the residents can elect whom- or whatever they choose. Brynneth had a total of 3,367 votes–1,000+ more votes than her closest opponent.
Do you have a pet that can do amazing, unbelievable things? Tell us about it. We’d love to hear from you!