Forgetful people are annoying sometimes. You tell them today your name is Deborah, only for them to call you Lorna a day later. If you ask them to pick up a blue envelope from the reception downstairs, they come back up with orange.
With all the annoyance and general disdain aimed at people who are forgetful, it’s a bit weird to realize that, on the opposite side of the spectrum, forgetful animals are not only funny but cute too. It’s like humans can’t help but be amazed at their tiny, incapable little brains trying to remember whether today’s scientists put the snack under the red or the blue bowl.
There is an entire Animal Planet series dedicated to trying to figure out whether chimpanzees can remember things for more than 30 seconds, and I am totally here for it.
And if you, like me, don’t just find dumb animals with a memory that can’t outlast an old iPhone’s battery cute, but think the idea of not being able to remember anything more than 10 seconds back is fascinating, this is the article for you.
Here are the top ten animals with the worst memory on the planet.
I know what you’re thinking, “Chimpanzees are some of the most intelligent animals on earth. How can they have bad memories?” but they really do. Their long-term memory and ability to reason may be on par with a five-year-old, but their short-term memory is absolutely horrible.
On average, a chimpanzee can only remember something that just happened for about 20 seconds. That’s even worse than a rat’s short-term memory!
That doesn’t mean they’re dumb, though. They have excellent long-term and working memory. It’s just that if you stick your tongue out at it now, it’s probably not going to remember what it was you did half a minute later.
This one seems a little obvious, but you may not have realized that memory is actually extremely important for most bees, especially honeybees. They need to remember where their hive is, where the nectar-rich flowers are, and how to get around. But in the case of their short-term memories, they really come up short.
Most honeybees have a short-term memory of only about 2.5 seconds! That means you could start a sentence, and they’d already forgotten what you were talking about before you finish it!.
Similar to chimpanzees, baboons have excellent long-term memory, but not so much for the short term. It’s still a bit difficult to gauge precisely how long a baboon’s short-term memory lasts. Still, in most cases, scientists believe it only just beats a bee’s, which means it’s really not that great, and I’m surprised these animals have even survived long enough to become this forgetful in the first place!
People will repeat over and over how baboons are intelligent, complex creatures with a complicated hierarchy and social structure, and incredible developmental abilities. But with a memory of just more than a bee, just more than 2.5 seconds, I seriously doubt how clever they actually are.
Ah yes, hamsters. Adorable, loving little pets with not a care in the world and not a thought in those tiny, fluffy little heads of theirs. If they weren’t so cute, we’d probably have eaten them.
I mean, with a memory of around three seconds, it’s not surprising that they aren’t found in the wild anymore and only exist as humans’ pets.
If I saw my friend Doug get eaten by a snake and then forget the whole ordeal only seconds later, I’d have no hesitation in also trying to cross the path he just walked over before getting eaten. And then I’d turn into snake food too.
Hamsters’ memories are so abysmal, I’m sad to break it to you, but if you own one, there’s a good chance they don’t even remember who you are, let alone the cuddles you were giving it ten minutes earlier.
These animals are so firmly on the “dumb and forgetful” list, they may just forget what they’re doing while they are doing it. So do yourself a favor, get a hamster and enjoy endless amusement surrounding the fact that they can’t remember why they do anything and that their entire life is just one blurry haze.
This may be surprising, considering the number of vengeful snake horror movies we’ve watched over the years, but most snakes have very poor, if not non-existent, memories. It’s not that they can’t remember anything, it’s just that their brains aren’t wired to connect emotionally to any event they experience.
That means they can learn to differentiate between predator and prey, but there’s a good chance your pet snake doesn’t know or care who you are.
They can identify and remember the scent of animals or things they’ve encountered before, but can’t associate any memories with that thing or creature. For most snakes, memory works a little like instinct and although they can’t recall exactly why they should be doing something, they just innately know that’s what they need to do.
This means, contrary to what a lot of people will have you believe, snakes have no idea what it means to be a pet, they probably cant recognize their owners, and they have no real capacity for bonding with humans or seeing them as anything more than an animal that apparently hasn’t harmed them and is too big to be prey so they just leave them alone.
I guess seeing seals on this list can’t be all that surprising. After all, they don’t exactly look like geniuses, although if you slapped some wire-rim glasses on one and stuck a pipe in its mouth, I could definitely see the resemblance to Sherlock Holmes.
For seals, their short-term memory span of a full 18 seconds means they don’t even know what it is that they are doing most of the time. They are almost completely unaware of their own behavior because, after less than half a minute, they can’t remember what it was they were trying to do.
Thank goodness for natural instincts, or these poor animals may have had a very tough time.
Okay, giraffes really surprised me when I realized I needed to add them to this list. I mean, they seem like such clever animals. I’m just amazed their short-term memory is so, well, short.
At just 30 seconds long, a giraffe’s short-term memory isn’t even enough to remind them they turned the kettle on, which would have been an issue if giraffes used kettles but thankfully, they don’t.
At least they can remember things that happened in the past. Otherwise, they definitely would have been classified as complete, blundering idiots.
Everything about a sloth doesn’t really scream “I’m smart,” so it’s not exactly a huge surprise that they don’t have great memories. If you’ve ever watched Ice Age, Sid the Sloth should have given you a good idea of how not-smart these animals are.
Their memories are so bad sometimes they forget what their arms look like to the point that they mistake them for tree branches, grab onto them with their opposite arms, and slip and die.
It’s really the ultimate form of poor short-term memory and forgetting what your own arm looks like does not bode well for these animals in the future.
Okay, this may seem to mean, but I’m rather happy turkeys have such bad short-term memory. Else they’d remember how many of them “disappear” every Thanksgiving.
They don’t look very smart, and the truth is their looks are very much a representation of their actual brainpower. Which isn’t a promising sign at all.
At least they’re dumb enough to be a delicious food source for all of us at least once a year, and none of them will ever be the wiser because, well, they can’t remember whether or not they were four or eight turkeys a few hours earlier.
Ostriches are assholes. They peck people, think they run the world and are such a domineering bird even though they’re as dumb as the dirt they stuff their heads into.
At least they get to blame this macho behavior on the fact that they can’t remember how ridiculously stupid they are. With a short-term memory of just 10 seconds, they may be running or chasing something without even remembering why.
And of course, their wide-set eyes and stupid-looking heads only add to the consensus that these animals are, in fact, not smart at all.