So for the purposes of this question, the following items are already determined by our world:

  • The humans and human society are in very beginning of an Industrial Revolution almost identical to our own on an Earth identical to our own, meaning they are technologically and socially on par with Western culture in 1760-1800.
  • Animals have developed human-level intelligence. Direct quote from Wikipedia:

Human intelligence is the intellectual capacity of humans, which is characterized by perception, consciousness, self-awareness, and volition. Through their intelligence, humans possess the cognitive abilities to learn, form concepts, understand, apply logic, and reason, including the capacities to recognize patterns, comprehend ideas, plan, problem solve, make decisions, retaining, and use language to communicate. Intelligence enables humans to experience and think.

  • Not all animals have become intelligent. Firstly, it has only affected mammals. No lizards, no birds, no bugs, etc.
  • Secondly, it has not affected any animals who were genetically manipulated by humans and domesticated. So cows, pig, sheep, "food animals" are still dumb. Same for cats and dogs, they are still our companions but not intelligent.
  • Thirdly, even among "wild mammals" the newly intelligent animals are a small percentage. Say about 10-20% of current animals' populations were affected. So we aren't talking about hundreds of bears suddenly becoming human smart, but maybe a few dozen.
  • For purposes of the question, I'd like to focus in on Eastern U.S. and Western European species of wild mammal, such as bears, wolves, rodents (squirrels, rats, rabbits, mice, etc), deer/elk/etc, wild boar, and so on.
  • We are assuming that granting human intelligence and sentience to these animals has brought them together mostly peacefully, so that animals who were once predator/prey (deer and wolves for example) are now working together due to these special circumstances.
  • Also for the purposes of this question we will be assuming that the animals can communicate to one another. That whatever mystical, fantastical, or magical "incident" let's say, that gave them this intelligence also allowed them to "speak" to one another, whether through telepathy, or powerful perception of body language and their natural animal sounds. This telepathy or perception, however, only extends to other animals affected by the same incident and is cross-species.

How could the animals reveal their newly found intelligence to human society?

How could the animals first communicate their sentience in such a way as to convince the humans of their intelligence? Assuming that the animals are now smart enough to understand and parse together local language (English), but still lack the physiological ability to form human speech, how do they communicate? Would it be easier for them to approach as a large group or would they select a "liaison" to attempt to approach human society? Which species would be best suited for this? Would they head straight for places of government and large cities or would they drum up support from smaller villages?

You don't need to answer all questions above. They are just a few examples of discussions that branch off of the main question which is in bold. Basically a discussion of what methods would work best for human-intelligent animals, who had previously been seen as wild, dumb creatures, to convince humans they are now smart enough to cause some serious problems.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So they can't use telepathy to communicate with parrots who can speak a human language and serve as translator? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 20:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Since parrots weren't included in the scope of the incident, they would not be able to utilize the telepathy as I laid out. Also important to note that parrots are tropical animals who would be extremely rare to find in Eastern U.S. or Western Europe during the time period established above. @Frostfyre $\endgroup$
    – C. VanHorn
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Are these animals sentient from birth? If so, I wonder if, without proper training, they may just act like a non-sentient animal, much like feral humans. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ From what I was picturing, it would be some kind of spooky magical "happening" that occurs suddenly. These animals would be totally normal, feral creatures, at varying ages from childhood to adulthood, who would suddenly for whatever reason realize they could reason, logic, and otherwise think. It would certainly take a certain number of months, but they would eventually be able to piece together that they now were thinking like people, and want to approach them as such. This question posits that a certain amount of time since the "happening" has occurred allowing them to adjust. @DaaaahWhoosh $\endgroup$
    – C. VanHorn
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 21:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would like to point out that "10-20%" of animals are more than you think, given that there are probably over a million total bears in the world that's a hell of a lot more than a few dozen smart bears. I guess that there are millions of bears, based on the fact there are 200,000 (estimated) brown bears alone based on the wiki article. Given their population has decreased, the number would be even higher in the time period of the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 21:53

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure that you'll get the Animals of Farthing Wood setup you want.

Animals of farthing wood

Animals in the wild

First, suddenly you've got a lot of smart bears but what are they going to learn from? They're not going to see signs and suddenly understand writing. They're going to be smart but they're still going to be bears. They'll be better at making bear choices and catching their prey in smart ways and some might even start using rocks as tools.

Smart does not mean cooperation.

Humans are smart but we have a tendency to murder anyone who doesn't look like us. Why would bears be less racist(speciesist) about smart dear than we are about other smart humans?

Smart does not mean peace or fast development of tools

Smart humans went 40,000 years in Australia without developing the bow and arrow and they fought wars with each other.

Which animals are most likely to learn english and try to communicate with humans then?


Rats live in close proximity to humans. They outnumber us so there's going to be hundreds of millions of smart rats so lots of chances. There's going to be lots of little smart ratlings hearing english as they grow up with the best chance of learning language and understanding.

If they're curious they're the most likely to be able to peek into classrooms or watch humans talking, singing, dancing or to learn anything else from humans.

They're going to be scared, particularly when they learn how many rat-related expressions we have. They won't want to be "trapped like a rat" but with tends of millions of young curious rats eventually some are going to try their luck at communicating.


Most will be ignored or people won't understand and will just freak out at the rat but sooner or later someone is going to start talking about "The Pet Rat I Just Caught Which Can Totally Count and Do Tricks" and from there reports of things like a rat pushing pebbles into patterns that look like writing from signs or similar are going to start spreading until people will start looking into it seriously.

1800's era it a bit sketchy, humans were still classifying other humans as fauna at that time so rats aren't likely to get the vote but some of the gentlement scientists are going to figure out that they're pretty bright for animals.


The rats won't need to "head" for places of government, they're already there.

Now the question is, how much would humans freak out at the idea. I'm thinking a major rat-genocide from angry and afraid humans with smart rats poisoning humans in retaliation.

  • $\begingroup$ I definitely agree that rodents and/or rats would be the main connection to humanity. But as I laid out, this is pre-Industrial America/Western Europe. No YouTube, no scientists. $\endgroup$
    – C. VanHorn
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Appologies, I missed the 1760-1800 bit. Will edit. $\endgroup$
    – Murphy
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 13:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with rats being the first to adopt pieces of human cooperation. It would be like the Secret of NIMH but in the streets. Second, I would say some of the predator patterns might change. Wolves might set up timed patrols. Bears might cultivate bee hives, or at least build fish traps $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 15:29

I'm reminded of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, wherein the Monster learned english from eavesdropping on another person learning English. That seems to be the most likely way for an animal to pick up on the language. From there I would think it would be mostly body language and pantomime. Much like an infant communicates at their stage of development when they can understand speech but not speak properly. There would be noises to draw attention, and then pointing/circling/touching that would indicate the rest.

However, I think there are real questions as to whether the animals would want to communicate with civilization at all.

Accepting the premise that the animals are friendly and working together, they would likely be able to sustain and support themselves as their own society. They already understand each other, and you've said they are drawn together from their strange circumstances.

To that end, the first interaction from humans would likely be by people accidentally discovering them in large unsettled woods or other areas. Noticing a tight circle of animal dens, or observing a group of different species working together in a river to catch fish. The sentient animals would likely play dumb when possible to avoid the attention of the humans.

  • $\begingroup$ Just because an animal suddenly becomes intelligent (for some value of intelligent) does not make that same animal able to produce the sounds of the human language, or necessarily even reason the way we do. Compare for example For designing a vocal language for an intelligent species, how to decide on phonemes? for some discussion on what goes into determining what sounds a creature can make. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ The Question indicated that in fact, animals do not have the physiological ability to make human sounds, so I did not reiterate that in my response. However, that is why I likened the communication to that of a small child who has yet learned to form words. $\endgroup$
    – SNSAD
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 13:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .