10 Amazing Animals That Can Recognize Themselves In The Mirror (With Pictures)

We humans use mirrors. We use it to check if anything is wrong with our face or body, like checking if we are getting fat, double-checking if the make-up was applied properly, or checking if our hairstyle is already fine. In most cases, we humans use mirrors for vanity purposes. 

However, how about animals? Do they use mirrors too? Can they recognize themselves in the mirror as humans do?

Actually, yes. Some animals can recognize themselves in the mirror but there are only a few of them. The ten amazing animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror are:

  • Bonobos
  • Orangutans
  • Chimpanzees
  • Gorillas
  • Bottlenose Dolphins
  • Elephants
  • European Magpies
  • Ants
  • Pigeons
  • Killer Whales

These animals are smart enough to recognize themselves in the mirror. However, let’s get deeper about this topic and learn more about them. We are going to answer various questions related to our subject, and break down each amazing animal that can recognize itself in the mirror. 

But before all of that, let’s first check what a mirror test is in animals. Let’s go! 

What Is A Mirror Test In Animals?

The mirror test in animals is a measure of self-awareness made by Gordon Gallup Jr. last year 1970. It is one way to determine if an animal possesses the ability to visually recognize itself. How do they execute it?

First, an animal included in the test is anesthetized and then marked or painted on the area of their body that they can’t usually see. Once the animal recovered from the anesthetic, they placed a mirror near the animal.

If the animal touches or recognizes the mark, it means that it passed the test and can recognize itself in the mirror. 

Not all animals passed the mirror test. In fact, only a small percentage of animal species have passed this test. Including the elephants, dolphins, Eurasian magpies, and great apes. Many species have failed the test including monkeys, giant pandas, and sea lions. 

Now that we know what a mirror test is in animals, let’s proceed to our list of animals that passed the test. These animals are smart enough to recognize themselves in the mirror. Yes, it is quite amazing! 

These Are The 10 Animals That Can Recognize Themselves In Mirror

Below are the ten animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror. These animals proved how smart they are! Let us check them out and learn more about them!


Bonobos can recognize themselves in the mirror

The first animals that passed the mirror test are the bonobos. Bonobos can recognize themselves in the mirror. 

Bonobos are one of the apes genetically similar to us humans. They are the most intelligent primate on Earth after humans. Bonobos share 98.7% of our DNA. They can express compassion, kindness, empathy, patience, and sensitivity. Bonobos can also form a deep relationship with their fellow bonobos.

Bonobos can express their emotions through their facial movements, like smiling when they are happy. They are social apes that love to talk and talk with their fellow bonobos. From all of the apes, bonobos are the species that are calmer, and most intelligent.  

Bonobos can make love face to face. They can kiss and sometimes kiss using their tongue or what we all know as a French kiss. Bonobos will do this with their fellow bonobos, whether it is a male or female. 

Bonobos can cure themselves of various injuries and sicknesses. They know the use of different leaves and fruits in the jungle. Bonobos can teach their young ones how to cure themselves using those herbals. They will swat their kid’s hands if their kids picked the wrong fruit or leave. 

Bonobos also have strong memories. They can recognize people based on our faces and voice. Their top-notch recognition skills helped them to pass the mirror test. Because of their amazing intelligence, there is no debate if bonobos can recognize themselves in the mirror

If you want to see an actual bonobo, you should go to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They can only be found there. 


orangutans 1

Scientists said that orangutans were the first animals that have been observed to have self-awareness. Before the mirror test happened, biologist Charles Darwin started to observe a female Orangutan. What happened is the female orangutan seems to be looking at herself through a mirror placed by Charles Darwin. 

What Charles Darwin did, led to people thinking if other animals can recognize themselves in mirrors like humans. People start to think that they are not the only one that has the capacity for self-awareness and this may be a learned behavior. 

There are actually three species of orangutans. The three species are the Sumatran, the Bornean, and the Tapanuli. These three species of apes can only be found in the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. So if you want to see one, go get a ticket. 

Young orangutans stay with their mom like us humans. They stay with their mothers until they reach seven years old. While they are staying with their mothers, they start to learn everything from her. Including what is the right food to eat, how to fight against predators, and how to cure themselves with plants. 

Orangutans are smart primates and they can use tools. They use sticks to get termites for food. They can also make gloves from leaves and they use them when they have to get fruit from a thorny branch. Orangutans learn this from observation and not from their instincts. 

Aside from using tools, orangutans can also track the displacements of objects both visible and hidden. In the zoo in Atlanta, two orangutans have been caught playing games on a touch-screen computer. That is very impressive! They are more updated on gadgets than I do! Haha! 

Orangutans are very clever and intelligent creatures. There is no doubt that they can recognize themselves in the mirror. 


chimpanzees can recognize themselves in the mirror

Scientists have made an experiment where they kept two male and female chimpanzees in a room with a full-length mirror. What happened next?

Chimpanzees started to act aggressive and defensive because they thought that their reflections in the mirror were other chimpanzees that wanted to attack them. 

However, they calmed down after that. This is when scientists have realized that the chimpanzees have already realized that the images they saw were their reflections. These four chimpanzees started to use the mirror to help them in grooming their bodies and faces after they realized it. 

Another experiment occurred where a mirror was introduced in the cage of a chimpanzee. Researchers put a red dot on the numbed chimpanzee. 

The anesthesia wore off and the chimpanzee started to become angry and aggressive thinking that it was another chimpanzee in the mirror. However, after some time, the chimp started to realize that the image in the mirror is just its reflection. After that, the chimp also started to groom itself with the help of the mirror. 

Humans and chimpanzees share 95 to 98 percent of the same DNA and they are also more closely related to humans. They can also make and use tools. Chimps use tools for many purposes than any other animal species except us humans. 

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent creatures. They can solve different kinds of problems given by their trainer or the zookeeper. Chimps communicate with each other by using facial expressions and vocalizations, like shouting and hoots.

Because of their intelligence, we can never deny that they can recognize themselves in the mirror. 


gorillas can recognize themselves in the mirror

Gorillas are on the list but not all of them can recognize themselves in the mirror. Some of the gorillas failed to recognize their own reflection in the mirror because they do not make eye contact with the reflection in the mirror. 

Not looking in the eyes was thought of when they are young. They do this to avoid provoking other gorillas. Because of this, gorillas fail to realize that it’s just their reflection in the mirror. However, some gorillas can sense themselves in the mirror. But like the chimps, they only realized it after some time. 

When gorillas see and recognize themselves in the mirror, they start to do some movements and observe themselves. Even though not all gorillas can recognize themselves in the mirror, they are still considered self-aware and smart creatures. 

Gorillas can learn sign language. They can also have a conversation with humans. One unbelievable experiment happened where a gorilla was taught to chat using 1000 words in American sign language and 2000 words in English. 

Like any other ape, gorillas can also feel emotion. They can laugh, grieve, cry, and get angry. Gorillas can form strong relationships with their fellow gorillas. They can also use tools and think about the past and the future. 

Because of their extraordinary intelligence, there is no doubt that these gorillas can recognize themselves in the mirror. 

Bottlenose Dolphins

dolphins can recognize themselves in mirror

The next animal that can recognize itself in the mirror is the bottlenose dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins have been proven by researchers to have self-awareness. Baby dolphins can show signs that they can recognize themselves in the mirror already even though they are still 15 to 18 months old. 

Dolphins develop faster compared to humans. One week after they were born, they are already social with their fellow dolphins. Dolphins are highly intelligent animals. They are quick learners. Dolphins can show empathy, joy and they grieve if some of their loved ones died. They are very playful animals!

One study was made where a bottlenose dolphin was exposed to a reflective surface. The first dolphin was shown to a reflective surface before and after getting marked with black ink by the researchers. The second dolphin was only exposed after getting a black mark. 

What is the result? The result is the first dolphin who was shown to the reflective surface before and after getting the black mark was more excited to observe its new mark. 

Dolphins are indeed amazing and cute animals. They can be found all over the world and in different environments. Dolphins are fast swimmers that have unbelievable brains. Because of their intelligence, they can recognize themselves in the mirror. 


elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror

Elephants are also smart animals, and they have proved it to the world. They can draw and feel emotions, like happiness, sadness, and anger, and they also grieve if someone died in their group. Elephants are one animal that has amazing minds!

One study was made back last year 2006 in the Bronx zoo. Researchers have placed a large mirror in a place where three elephants lived. The researchers have observed that the elephants did not act aggressively or like how they would usually greet another elephant when they saw their reflection. In short, they didn’t think their reflection was another elephant.

After that, the elephants start to replicate the movements they were doing like waving their trunks or moving their heads. When the elephants did that, they immediately understood that the reflection was them! They start to examine themselves by opening their mouth and sticking out their tongue. 

After that, researchers proceed to step three, which is the final test. The researchers put a mark on the bodies of the elephants. Elephants were able to see the mark on their bodies with the help of the mirror. This test proves that elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror. 

Related article: Why do elephants obey humans?

European Magpies

magpies can recognize themselves in mirror

Magpies are one of the most intelligent birds and one of the most intelligent animals to live. They can use tools, copy human speech, grieve when their loved ones die, play some fun games with their fellow magpies, and they work in groups. 

Researchers have tested this before. They put a mark on the body of magpies with a red or yellow dot that could be only seen with the use of a mirror. What they have found is that the magpies continuously scratched the part of their body that has a mark. This proved that they can recognize the reflection in the mirror as themselves.

Related article: Can magpies be pets?


ants can recognize themselves in mirror

There are over 12,000 species of ants around the world. They can lift up to 20 times their body weight. One ant is not intelligent enough. However, an ant colony is very smart. Ants have proven that they are better living in groups and not alone. They are civilized animals!

I know this may sound weird to you, but yes, ants can recognize themselves in the mirror even though they are so small compared to the other animals listed here. 

There is one test that was made before to prove that ants can recognize themselves in the mirror. Researchers put blue dots on the ants. When ants see the blue spot on their bodies after a mirror was placed, they try removing it. 


Pigeons can recognize themselves in the mirror

Pigeons are also one of the most intelligent birds in the world. They can recognize the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Pigeons can also count! One study made last 2011 investigated whether pigeons could master numbers. Guess what? The study concluded that pigeons can count!

Pigeons are smart birds, and they are smarter than your dogs. Aside from those abilities I have mentioned above, they also know how to recognize themselves in the mirror. There are studies made to prove that these fellas are self-aware in their reflections.

Researchers marked the pigeon and placed a mirror in front of them. What happened next? The pigeon reacted like what other animals listed here reacted when they saw the mark on their bodies.

The pigeon turned to get a better view and started touching the marking on its own body with the help of the mirror. This proves that pigeons can recognize themselves in the mirror!

Killer Whales

Killer whales can recognize themselves in the mirror

Orcas or killer whales can also recognize themselves in the mirror. They are the second-largest brains after sperm whales on the Earth. Orcas are animals that are so emotional and social. They can feel compassion, empathy, perception, and more. They are also self-aware of their reflections in the mirror. 

The method used to recognize if killer whales can recognize themselves in the mirror is the same as the method used in the dolphins. These killer whales showed signs of expecting some changes on their bodies that have the ink or mark. This proved that these big fellas know how mirrors work! 

Can Dogs Recognize Themselves In The Mirror?

Dogs rely on odor to identify themselves and other living things. They can’t recognize themselves in the mirror, and in my personal experience, they really can’t. I had several dogs before, and every time they see themselves in the mirror, they bark like there is no tomorrow. In simple words, they think that what they see in the mirror is them.

Can Cats Recognize Themselves In The Mirror?

Same as the dogs, which means no. Cats cannot recognize themselves when they look in the mirror. They also rely on scent as dogs do. But unlike dogs, cats will ignore that reflection because it is not a threat since they realize that the cat they see in the mirror has no scent.

Final Verdict

All animals have brains, and they can think. However, only a few of them can recognize their reflection in the mirror. The intelligence and skills of each animal species are different from another. That is why there is no reason to compare another species from the other. 


Jake Willhoite
Jake runs AnimalDome.com and has had cats and dogs his entire life. As a kid his family adopted several dogs from the local shelter which set him down the path of animal rescue.
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