In Animal Farm different species of animals have different abilities and levels of intelligence. The pigs and dogs are the best at reading and writing, while Boxer and most of the other animals do not possess the same knowledge. These differing levels of education are reflected in the hierarchy that eventually emerges on Animal Farm: pigs and dogs on top, Boxer and the other “lower animals” below. One interpretation of the disparity in intelligence among animals is that some species—such as pigs— are destined to rule, while the lower animals (horses, cows, chickens) are destined to suffer. If this interpretation is to be believed, then class divisions such as the ones represented in the novella are natural and inevitable, and the clever—or the most cunning—will always rise to the top.
On the other hand, Animal Farm shows that the pigs’ intelligence doesn’t necessarily make them more capable or productive than the other animals. The pigs’ intelligence rarely produces anything good. Snowball’s biggest idea—copied by Napoleon—is the windmill, which merely wastes years of the animals’ time. The pigs’ intelligence is mainly used to manipulate the lower animals. Squealer uses his skill with words to give cunning explanations for Napoleon’s lies. Similarly, the only time Napoleon demonstrates intelligence is in training his dog police force.
At the same time, Benjamin and Muriel are as literate as the pigs but never achieve any power at all. Benjamin and Muriel’s lack of political power suggests that it is not the pigs’ intelligence alone which puts them at the top of the hierarchy, but their intelligence combined with their willingness to abuse others. Animal Farm also suggests that the true source of power on the Farm may be Boxer. He defeats the human farmers, does most of the work, produces most of the wealth, and in Chapter 7 demonstrates that he could easily destroy Napoleon’s dogs.