In Real Life animals don't really do much of anything, but in certain media and literature they can do things you don't usually see animals do and might or might not be smarter than the human characters themselves.
In most of these cases they're actually generally smarter than humans, and can generally be the main characters or protagonists.
The character doesn't have to be a specific animal, merely be animal-like (four-legged carnivores are popular) and clearly not human (a Nature Spirit, a god, et cetera). They are more likely to be an imposing animal than something cute. To reduce the sense of cartoonishness inherent in this idea, the Intellectual Animal may speak without moving their mouth and/or talk in a normal, serious voice.
In fact, this character tends to be a little cynical about humans or may even have outright contempt for most of humankind. The rest of the cast may have to earn their respect. If they do prove themselves they might choose to befriend the human, even going so far as becoming an equal partner and Sapient Steed or Mentor.
Anime and Manga
- Almost every Pokémon in the anime ever, especially if they happen to be a psychic type.
- Particularly the Rocket trio's Meowth, who originally learned to talk to impress a female Meowth (it didn't work).
- Additionally, Pokemon had a Slowking that could also talk in human speech, though in its case it was because of the actual high intelligence level inherent in all Slowking.
- Mewtwo fits this trope even more closely, being extremely intelligent, telepathic and not particularly friendly.
- Aversions are Slowpoke and Psyduck, though Slowpoke is part psychic type and Psyduck can use psychic powers (but only in specific situations).
- The wolves from Wolf's Rain are definitely smart and intimidating. Kiba and Tsume are also quite contemptuous of humans (Kiba tends to kill lots of them). They usually communicate telepathically, but when they take on their human disguises it's interpreted as actual speech. Many of the other animals are telepathic as well.
- Nyanko-sensei/Madara from Natsume Yuujinchou.
- Zafila of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, especially from the third season and up, where, according to the Megami Sound Stages, less restrictive military rules for animals in the TSAB means that he's now never seen out of his wolf form.
- Mao from Darker than Black is an animal-possessing Contractor who has lost his original body some time ago and now uses a black cat as his default form. The black cat body dies at the end of the first season, so he switches to a squirrel during the second season.
- Ein of Cowboy Bebop probably qualifies, despite being a data dog and having a computer for a brain. Nonetheless, he's been known to utilize keyboards, play shogi, and hack into websites. The episode "Mushroom Samba" shows him holding a conversation with a cow, in which he is quite articulate.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shows us that developing a Stand gives an animal human-level intelligence. From Part 3 alone, we have the Boston Terrier Iggy (the Fool), an orangutan (Strength), and Dio's pet falcon, Pet Shop (Horus).
- Chi from Chi's Sweet Home, although she's pretty low on the intellect scale, essentially being a cat toddler. Other older pets are smarter.
- From Axis Powers Hetalia, Cameroon's lion cub Kokolo, a Glasgow University Fine Arts graduate according to Hetaween 2011. Who designs and apparently makes his "master" a Halloween costume with his own hands, er, "paws".
- It's not enough that Tony Tony Chopper of One Piece, once a normal reindeer, ate the Hito Hito no Mi devil fruit and became a talking animal with humanesque forms. He then was trained to become a doctor. By the time he joined the Straw Hat Pirates at age 15, he was a completely capable physician able to mix medicine, perform surgery, and thaw and resuscitate completely frozen people in an age where normal technology is about the level of the Renaissance. He's a veritable Doogie Howser, M.D. On top of that, he's not a bad fighter, either.
- It isn't clear how smart all of the animals from Mori no Ando are but the turtle appears to be able to read kanji and the fish can speak English.
- Norbert Sykes' god, Myrtle, from The Badger. Could be an imaginary friend, since only the hero ever sees her. The line "God is a badger named Myrtle!" will always be one of this contributor's favourites.
- Although technically human, Beast from the various incarnations of the X-Men certainly evokes the same imagery.
- Kitty Pryde's dragon Lockheed. Cosmo the dog from Nova. Devil Dinosaur is pretty bright.
- Prackspoor, Lord Arux's pet from Lucifer.
- The Beaver from Seth Green's Freshmen. Essentially a take on the X-men's Beast. Except as a tiny fuzzy animal who has an obsession with building dams.
- Detective Chimp. Gorilla Grodd, especially in Justice League. In the Silver Age, Supergirl's horse Comet was actually a centaur who had fallen victim to a Baleful Polymorph. And Silver Age Krypto had full human intelligence for no real reason except that it was more fun that way (and hey, he's an alien dog, so why not?).
- Barnabas, Destruction (later Delirium)'s dog in The Sandman.
- As was the case in the cartoon, Ape from George of the Jungle (voiced by John Cleese to make him even funnier).
- The animal gods from Princess Mononoke.
- Archimedes the Educated Owl, from Disney's The Sword in the Stone.
- Gromit from the Wallace and Gromit shorts and film - it can be argued that he's much smarter than his Bungling Inventor owner.
- Gourmet chef Remy from Ratatouille, a rat.
- Blood from A Boy and His Dog. Definitely smarter than his partner Vic.
- In the film adaptation of Watership Down the main group of rabbits are more intelligent than normal rabbits but they're still rabbits. All but two or three of them don't quite understand things like how some objects are able to sit on top of water and not sink and cars and tractors appear to be monsters that run along roads.
- Godzilla/Gojia and most of his Kaiju friends, although their intelligence varies from one film/adaptation to another. On average, Goji-san himself seems to have human or near-human intelligence.
- Falcor the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story.
- In The Secret of NIMH, a group of rats and a pair of mice are scientifically enhanced to have human-level intelligence. Oddly enough, the family of one of the enhanced mice seem perfectly intellegent themselves, even though it's a rather important plot point that they were not enhanced above normal mice (it's possible the children were supposed to have inherited some of their father's intellect, but the wife is disrciminated against by the rats for being a normal animal). The movie also features a crow who, while not especially smart, is capable of human-level conversation with mice, and an owl who gives life-saving advice.
- Many animals in the Tamora Pierce Wild Magic series, but especially the Badger God.
- Most of the animals in Rudyard Kipling's original Jungle Books are cynical about human nature. The Wild Child Mowgli naturally shares their attitude, leading to friction when he tries to return to human society.
- Literary/film example: Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Narnia has lots of non-divine mortal talking animals as well, who make a strong distinction between themselves and the regular, nonsentient sort of animals. Although not all of them are particularly intellectual.
- Quite a few in the Discworld: with the magic and narrativim and all:
- Gaspode, the Wonder Dog, the World's Only Harmonica-Playing Dog (tuppence), What A Good Dog, Saved The World Once You Know.
- The Librarian, who technically used to be human before being turned into an orangutan and found he rather enjoyed it. He's not only quite possibly the most intelligent living thing in all of Ankh-Morpork, but he's also capable of grabbing a grown man by his ankles, turning him upside down and bashing his head into the pavement.
- Quoth the Raven, one of Death's companions.
- And the Amazing Maurice and his rodent friends.
- Averted in Sourcery, where what Rincewind took to be a highly cultured talking snake turned out to be an extremely thin man sitting behind the snake.
- Firekeeper has these in truckloads, considering that basically every wild animal comes in a smart variety.
- Feral in Soon I Will Be Invincible is a tiger-man so animal-like that he walks on all fours when in private and has back problems from standing on two feet in public.
- Aargh, from The Dragon Knight series by Gordon R. Dickson is a giant wolf and good friend of the protagonist, though in general he tends to have little use for anybody.
- Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series features a handful of non-humanoid creatures with humanoid-level intelligence, though most aren't any more gruff or cynical than what you'd expect of humans:
- The kyree, wolf-like telepaths with a strong oral (mental?) history.
- Gryphons, who are almost universally cheerful, vain, and entirely self-assured. Gryphons were created by a mage in the earliest parts of the series timeline, and as far as the gryphons are concerned, they're an improvement on sentient life as a whole.
- The dyheli, deer creatures with Psychic Powers, a stong herd mentality, and the fuzzy concept of free will that you get when you mash the first two together. Probably the most powerful minds in the series; in one novel, a dyheli herd leader repeatedly displays the ability to ignore mental shields in order to get concepts across.
- There's also the Companions and the Firecats, although they're less cool animals and more spirits in useful form or proxies of their deity, respectively.
- It still remains unclear whether Jonathan Swift meant the Houhynhyms of Gulliver's Travels to be taken seriously in their cynical, anti-human perspective. (Inverted in the Yahoos with which they share their island, who are unintelligent humans, or perhaps very humanlike apes.)
- Frith and Inle, the rabbits from Watership Down
- The Dragon Horse in Journey to the West. (Monkey himself seems really too humanoid to count.)
- Smaug the dragon, the giant eagles, and Bilbo's thrush in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
- Poul Anderson's novel Brain Wave, where Something sends the IQ's of every animal on Earth soaring, including Humankinds, resulting in The Singularity.
- Einstein, a rather modified Golden Retriever, in Watchers, by Dean Koontz. He loves to read, plays a good game of Scrabble, and has fun teasing his humans.
- The Bunyip in Naomi Novik's Tounges of Serpents, a race of landgators adapted to living underground who set complex traps, communicate between communities and understand the concept of trade/bribery.
- Harry Potter invokes this by way of the Wolfsbane Potion, which allows werewolves who drink it to keep their mind in a human state.
- The Treecats of the Honorverse are fully sentient, have a civilization spanning most of their home world, history (via recorded memories) dating back thousands of years, and as of book 7 have started colonizing other planets.
Live Action TV
- Mr. Ed from Mister Ed, although they used peanut butter to get his lips to move.
- Actually, the peanut butter thing is just a weird rumour. Though why somebody bothered to start a rumour involving peanut butter and a fictional talking horse is beyond this troper. In reality, they used fishing line beneath his lips.
- Dinotopia is an entire island populated by this kind of character. In particular, Bix hates it when anyone calls her their Non-Human Sidekick.
- In the kids show Blue's Clues, the titular dog is a detective.
Mythology And Religion
- Iktomi, Coyote...Pretty much all Trickster Archetypes fit this trope.
- Red XIII, aka Nanaki, from Final Fantasy VII is perhaps the prime example of this in video games.
- Red is especially weird; not only is he smart for an "animal", he's probably the smartest member of your party.
- Even weirder when it's revealed that adjusting for their species' respective lifespans is that Red is a teenager, making him a sort of Teen Genius on top of being an Intellectual Animal.
- And Magical Native American, with shades of Fantasy Counterpart Culture / Space Jews. (But Final Fantasy VII is full of Space Jews, so...) Yeah, Red's got a lot of tropes.
- Red is especially weird; not only is he smart for an "animal", he's probably the smartest member of your party.
- Blanca from Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
- Amaterasu and the Satome Canine Warriors in Okami
- Okku goes heavy on the contempt for humans in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer.
- Statistically Speaking Okkus intelligence is below average. Though seeing as the average intelligence of a bear is a whopping 2, that shouldn't count too much against him.
- Nall from Lunar Silver Star Story
- And Ruby from Lunar 2: Eternal Blue
- Koromaru from Persona 3. Like the Librarian, he can't talk, but he's smarter than Junpei, capable of detecting shadows, is great with a knife, and is capable of summoning a Persona.
- Boney of Mother 3 fits this pretty well, although he is a charming chocolate labrador as opposed to something more intimidating. Despite this, he occasionally speaks with the party (how he does this is never explained) and blends human-level intelligence with animal instincts, taking offense to an NPC suggesting his use as bait for a raging monster one moment, and dropping everything to chase after insects the next.
- PSI-users can communicate with animals using telepathy, though Lucas could do this even before his powers awakened.
- Repede, to the point of acting more human than dog at times. He is pretty much an expy of Blanca.
- Dragons fall easily into this trope, like Arok in Drakan.
- The mabari hounds from Dragon Age: Origins are described as having almost-human intelligence, and legend even tells that they're "smart enough to speak, but wise enough not to". You can recruit a mabari into your party, and he occasionally "converses" with your other party members while you wander around.
- Dream Catcher has Arashi the horse. He will wait for you to say please.
- Krosp I, in Girl Genius, was altered through Mad Science to become one of these.
- Thomas Kemper (the cat) from Penny Arcade may qualify, while he is never shown doing anything out of the ordinary it is mentioned that he has some sort of Microsoft Professional Certifications and he may or may not have designed an industrial laser and possibly a time machine.
- Sounds like a parody of Scratch Fury, Destroyer of Worlds from PVP.
- Artie of Narbonic is this and then some. Superhuman intelligence, an excellent classical education and a boundless love of alfalfa all in one gerbil-sized packet.
- Mr. Speedy the koala from A Girl and Her Fed.
- The imperial cats from Alpha Shade. They seem to vary from between being house-cat sized to big cat sized. They have psionic powers that are significantly in excess of any humans we've seen.
- Berthold from The Last Days of Foxhound.
- Xanther from Elven Lacryment seems to be the lead character's psychiatrist.
- Blackwing the raven from Order of the Stick has recently become this, offering advice and insight to his master, Vaarsuvius.
- Dietzel from Wapsi Square.
- The fox Shadow might be the most prominent example from Sandra and Woo since he's for example able to come up with a rhyming carnivorous anthem. Woo, on the other hand, attempted at least subliminal cookie acquisition.
- Any wizard/sorcerer familiars in Our Little Adventure. Angelika's got a rat named Norveg and Simonicus has a cat named Ebony.
- Hazel, and many other cats, in "Prince of Cats"
- Brian from Family Guy
may also qualifydefinitely qualifies, as well as Brian's cousin Jasper.
- Spoofed in The Simpsons when Homer became a food critic and was writing a review, and due to a fight couldn't turn to Lisa for help:
Homer: Let's see, "The steak was too..." Come on, help me out here.
Santa's Little Helper: Ruff!
Homer: I don't know... you've been giving me that all day.
Santa's Little Helper: Chewy?
- "Deep Space Homer"
Scientist: People, we're in danger of losing our funding. America isn't interested in space exploration any more.
Assistant: Maybe we should finally tell them the big secret: that all the chimps we sent into space came back super-intelligent.
Chimp: No, I don't think we'll be telling them that.
- Klaus, the Smith family's goldfish on American Dad, fits this. Of course, Klaus isn't just a goldfish; he used to be an East German Olympic ski-jumper until his brainwaves were switched with that of a goldfish in the 1986 Winter Olympics (which did not exist) by the CIA to prevent him from winning the gold medal. He also has a rather overt . . . "fascination" with Mrs. Smith. Paging Troy McClure, line one Mr. McClure . . .
- Corneil from Watch My Chops.
- In the episode "Sleepy Time", Gary the Snail from SpongeBob SquarePants is revealed to be quite intelligent through his dream self.
- Many animals in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but most notably Appa, the badger moles, the dragons, and The Giant Lion Turtle.
- In Xiaolin Showdown there is a T-Rex that appears to be this. Though Clay points out that she doesn't actually seem to be all that smart, and people simply assume she is because she has a British accent.
- Shipwreck's talking parrot Polly from G.I. Joe seems to possess human intelligence, or darn close to it.
- The mammoths in Cro are actually smarter than most of the human characters they share screentime with. Although since most of them are neanderthals, this is hardly surprising.
- Monsieur Mallah from Teen Titans. He's a gorilla, he talks and plays chess.
- In George of the Jungle, Ape (a gorilla, to be precise) is probably the smartest member of the cast.
- A Batman Beyond episode was all about a gorilla being turned into this when his DNA was spliced with a human's.
- Mr. Peabody from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
- In one of The Critic's Cutaway Gags, it's revealed that raptors are this.
- In Flip the Frog every character that is not a Funny Animal or Animate Inanimate Object, is this.
- Perry the Platypus/Agent P along with the other animal secret agents from Phineas and Ferb.