Recent studies revealed that many animals identify individual humans. In this account, we review previous literatures on individual human recognition by wild or domestic animals and discuss the three hypotheses: “high cognitive abilities” hypothesis, “close human contact” and “pre-exposure to stimuli” hypothesis. The three hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. Close human contact hypothesis is an ultimate explanation for adaptive benefits whereas high cognitive abilities and pre-exposure to stimuli hypothesis are proximate explanations for mechanisms to perform such discriminatory behaviour. We report a case study of two bird species in a human-free habitat. Long-tailed skuas, which are known for having high cognitive abilities, exhibited the human discriminatory abilities whereas ruddy turnstones did not display such abilities toward approaching humans. This suggests that highly intelligent species may have this type of discriminatory ability so that they could learn to identify individual humans quickly by pre-exposure to stimuli, even in a human-free habitat. Here, we discuss that human recognition is more common in species with rapid learning ability and it could develop for a short period of time between an intelligent species and human.