Which animals would be best at human games?

Animals at human games

Humans are pretty versatile creatures. We’ve harnessed the powers of nature to create many of the modern conveniences we enjoy today, we’ve used our brains to overcome seemingly impossible challenges and we’ve used our physical strength to build giant structures.

That said, there are many animals in nature who are great specialists in one area or another. Olympic sprinters can run fast, but they stand no chance against in a race against a horse or an ostrich.

If some animals were allowed to compete against humans at their own games, they’d very likely win. Here’s a look at some of them.

African Elephant

Californian Ground Squirrel

While the Californian ground squirrel isn’t the biggest and most powerful enemy, it is very cunning. This makes it a great candidate for playing poker, a game in which it’s often necessary to bluff and deceive your opponents, especially if you have been dealt a low-ranking combination of cards.

The Californian ground squirrel also needs to deceive its predators to help it stay alive. One of its biggest threats comes from rattlesnakes, who are more than capable of swallowing them whole. To deceive the rattlesnake’s strong sense of smell, the Californian ground squirrel will rub the shed skin of other rattlesnakes on itself to disguise its scent.

It’s believed the squirrels pass this trick on to each other from generation to generation, helping their species to stay one step ahead.

Squirrels are basically self-taught – they learn by observing fellow squirrels, especially when it comes to stealing food.


Cheetahs are often falsely called the fastest animal on earth. They are the fastest land mammal, but they’re only number 12 in the overall list. For example, the Peregrine falcon can achieve speeds of 242 mph (389 km/h) when it dives to catch its prey. That’s faster than all but two production road cars currently on the market today.

The cheetah, on the other hand, is the fastest running animal. This giant cat that’s native to Africa is capable of converting huge bursts of energy into rapid acceleration and high top speeds. This allows it to reach 60 mph 95 km/h in less than three seconds and a top speed of 80 mph (128 km/h).

This would make it great for competing in running races, although it would be best suited to shorter distances like the 100-metre sprint and 1 km races, rather than a marathon. It can use its impressive speed for just 30 seconds, meaning longer distances are more problematic.

It doesn’t take long for a cheetah to catch its breath, though, so could easily enter multiple races in short succession.

Dogs, Elephants, Dolphins, Gorillas and Parrots

You may think that humans are the only ones capable of understanding human language. However, you’d be very much mistaken. Scientists have been able to prove that dogs, elephants, dolphins, gorillas and parrots can all understand some human language.

Examples of this include a grey parrot that was capable of using its 150-word vocabulary in full sentences and a western lowland gorilla that could understand and speak in sign language. Some scientists apparently believe we may be able to speak to dolphins by next year, although that’s more to do with our ability to learn their language, than vice versa.

This ability to understand human words could make them great at playing word games like Scrabble, you just might need some especially big tiles for the elephant to use.

Dog intelligence

Horses and Lions

In 1891, a former teacher from Germany decided to try and teach his horse how to count. Known as Hans, the horse demonstrated he was able to undertake addition and subtraction by stamping his hoof on the floor to count out his answer. Over time, Hans also learned more complicated functions like multiplication, division and fractions.

Lions have also been found to be good at counting. In the wild, they’re almost immediately able to count whether their pack outnumbers an enemy. They use this to calculate the odds of their success and make their decisions on whether to attack or run based on these odds.

These abilities to count and calculate odds would make them great at playing blackjack, where success comes from making the right decision of whether your odds of winning are improved or worsened by requesting another card.

There are obviously some issues of dexterity that need to be overcome before humans and animals start playing games like these together, but it’s interesting that they possess some of the most important qualities required to succeed.

Dolphins can distinguish between language sequences, they have good memory, observe themselves, can distinguish between and match specific items with each other.


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