Dumb-ass Asses

Maybe it’s just me and my oversensitive disposition but I can find myself getting pretty sick of naturalists, zoologists and the like spouting off at how brilliant animals are.

Sure in certain criteria they are much better than mankind, for example I would not like to cage fight a Grizzly Bear or try a freestyle 100 metre swimming race against a Great White, but the one compliment that really gets my goat (yes, I did use that phraseology on purpose) is how so very, very intelligent some of these critters are.

One list of the ‘Top Ten Most Intelligent Animals’ goes thus: chimpanzees, bottlenose dolphins, elephants, African grey parrots, rats, crows, dogs, pigeons, pigs, octopuses. A fair spread across the board with mammals, birds and a cephalopod but a no show from the fish and insect world. Still, plenty for us to be getting on with so let’s start at the top.

Chimpanzees apparently share a massive 99% of our DNA, though I highly suspect that only applies to male humans in the most part (it could also explain my ever growing hirsuteness), the female of our species, in general, being more highly evolved than us chaps. Chimps have the ability to use tools, form social networks (more friendly than the ones on-line, one hopes) and some have even been known to learn sign language to communicate with humans to about the same level of an angry car driver. Yet they do not use written communication and have never produced a single Limerick even after being given the opening prompt line: ‘There once was a girl from Nantucket’. Not so impressive.

It is accepted that Bottlenose dolphins have developed a verbal communication of sorts, a ‘language’ of clicks and whistles, though this is only understood by themselves, players of the spoons and scaffolders observing a bit of totty walking by on the street below their vantage point. Famous for being able to learn tricks in return for payment in fish, these show-offs of the deep have long been known as smart and have been noted, in reports dating back to Ancient Greece, to come to the aid of human swimmers in distress. (On the other hand I have also seen a dolphin trying to mount a diver so maybe not so altruistic after all.) However in a carefully monitored scientific experiment (which I may or may not have made up for the purpose – or porpoise – of this rant) dolphins have been found to be completely useless at playing Monopoly or Cluedo. In fact, aside from balancing the dice on their noses and expecting a sardine, the bottlenose buffoons could not understand or act upon the simplest of rulesets put before them. A poor 3/10.

They never forget…or so it is claimed. So what exactly is it elephants remember; the nine times table? Where they left their car keys? On-line bank account passwords? The table of elements? (Which is really close to their name, so they should know it.) How to build an Ikea Billy bookcase? No, they remember feck all of any use, except maybe how to walk in a line holding each other’s tails. Their brains apparently have as many neurons as a human one yet not one of them has done anything as simple as bake bread or set up a system of basic economic transactions…and if they have they have obviously forgotten it. That’s enough about the flappy eared, simpleton bastards, let’s move on.

Parrots. “Polly wants a cracker.” Polly gets a cracker. Happy Polly. “Polly wants ‘If You Want Blood’ AC/DC’s live CD.” Polly has not got a single clue what to do with it, other than peck at it like it is a cracker. Polly is a fuckin’ idiot. Yes, they can imitate human talking but so can the cast of many a soap opera or a footballer giving a post-match interview, that does not mean they are intelligent nor understand what they are saying. Feathery imitators at best.

Rats. Apparently rats are self-aware, ticklish, dream like humans and make decisions on learned facts. I flatter myself with self-awareness and if I found myself floating on a turd in an underground pipe I’m pretty sure I’d be aware of having to get the hell out of there. I do wonder what they dream about though…training ninja turtles, perhaps?

Crows. I like crows, I think they’re pretty cool looking birds. I would relish having one that landed on my shoulder and sat there as I strolled down to the local boozer affording me the look of a badass Viking. Not a pet as such, more a sentient accessory to add a menace to my demeanour. Apparently a crow’s brain is the size of a human thumb which puts their intelligence on a level with primates but as I have outlined above that’s not so brilliant. It is reported that they can recognise and remember human faces so be careful, a crow could pick you out in a police line-up. But it’s far from clever being a grass, in a self-preservation sense, so that’s a black mark for the crows…not that you’d see it.

Dogs. Owners of dogs always think their pooch is intelligent much in the same way parents think their children are…both are invariably wrong. Sit, beg, shake hands, roll over, fetch. A few simple tricks learned does not make intelligence in my opinion. If a dog could help with a crossword or fill the car with petrol, I might be more impressed. I would be happy if dogs were intelligent enough to understand, “Piss off,” when said to them as they repeatedly jump up and down against me for attention. (See my earlier ‘He Really Likes You’ rant for further clarification.) Dogs are not intelligent, they’re malleable.

Pigeons. They eat drunks’ vomit. Next.

Pigs. Said to be very clean and only roll in mud to cool themselves due to not having sweat glands. How can that be true? If you roll in mud you get covered in mud and that is the complete opposite to clean. If they have made the list of intelligent animals why haven’t they invented a better way to keep cool, like a fan or air conditioning? Pigs have also been known to use a joystick to control an on-screen cursor which begs the question why haven’t they ordered a cooling silk kimono off the internet? The final nail in their coffin of lacking in intelligence is why would you opt to taste like bacon, surely the stupidest survival method ever employed?

Octopuses. Not octopi as I was lead to believe for years…yet not flagged as a spelling error. What can be said of these bags of snot with eight limbs? Well, they have the largest brains of any invertebrate and the majority of the neurons of this brain are in their legs. The only real version of a ‘smart-arse’ in nature, perhaps? Famously there was an Octopus, called ‘Paul’, who predicted the results of matches during the 2010 World Cup. I shall assume psychic abilities are different to intelligence and don’t count for the purpose of this rant, plus the fact that Paul was not 100% accurate does not go in his favour. True intelligence would have been Paul flopping down to the bookmakers and winning himself a few quid…or pieces of eight, which sounds like the currency an octopus would deal in.

That is the top ten but what of the other lower ranking animals, how bright are they? Take polar bears, they live in some of the most harsh terrain and conditions the world has to offer, it’s proper bloody freezing and really hard to sustain yourself in such a winter wonderland. Not once has any polar bear ever thought; ‘Feck this, I’m off,’ and walked south until it got warmer and greener. Not too clever in my book. Then, like the pig, far too many creatures are far too tasty for their own good placing them on the menu for men and other animals alike. Why haven’t antelopes, dear, zebras, wildebeest, sheep, cows, taken a leaf out of the poison dart frog’s book and made themselves toxic to consume? Tasting good is a big leap into the land of stupidity. In short all animals can be stuffed into two main categories, dumb and dumber.

The wheel, computers, internal combustion engine, domestic appliances, writing, mathematics, science, music, the internet, media studies, and fidget spinners; not one of these , in general, things has even the merest shadow of a hoof, fin, webbed foot or claw print upon it. Mankind invented them all, and despite many physical disadvantages, climbed its way to the peak of the flow chart of creation and the far right position on that famous evolutionary depicting T-shirt. Compared to everything else that crawls, swims, flies, walks upon this planet we, even the more simple-minded of us, are an Einstein to their Patrick Star.

But before we get too big-headed let me offer you another list of man-made wonderment. The AK47, religion, war, politics, plastic, internal combustion engine, soap operas, the internet, turtle soup, ‘KONG – Skull Island’, music and skateboards. Still feeling intellectually superior to the neighbour of a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea? Humanity has been responsible for some of the most heinous ‘advances’ any species could dump on this planet and others that are a force for good in some hands and downright evil in others (hence the duplicate entries in both lists).

We are, without doubt, the most intelligent animals on the planet, no other organism comes close, yet in the same breath we are the stupidest too. Vindictive, petty, spiteful, vengeful. I can’t say for sure but I don’t think lions, for example, hold grudges because of things another lion posted on Twitter or what their ancestors did back in the 12th century. Humanity has invented things with the , in general, use of killing humans and also other ‘advancing items’ that started out as positives but are now seen as problematic to us and the likes of the, too stupid to migrate, polar bears.

I still hold the opinion that dolphins couldn’t win Mastermind and I have yet to see a pigeon utilise a drinking straw to get all the benefits of the high alcohol content of the liquid element of the drunks’ pavement pizza; but on the other hand it’s unlikely an octopus is going to drop a thermo-nuclear bomb into some political hot spot or that a pig will choke the oceans with its selfishly discarded one-use plastic water bottles. So although we humans have an unchallenged right to be placed top of any ‘Top Ten Cleverest Animals’ list by a country mile at this moment in time; how long will it be before we terminally fuck things up and leave the door open for the cockroaches to have their shot at the title? That’ll teach us not to put them on the list.

(Just for the record I took an IQ test to see how I faired in the old Brainiac spectrum and it turns out I’m sat squarely between dogs and pigeons. Looks like I need that crow’s presence for more than just fashionable chic.)