Top 10 Best Fathers in the Animal Kingdom
It’s Father’s Day! Here at Safari Ltd, we love all things animal, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to explore how fatherhood works among the animals of the world. Today, we’ll look at ten animal dads who go above and beyond to be great fathers.
1. Mountain Gorilla
The mountain gorilla male has a lot on its plate. The male of this great ape species are known as “silverbacks”, due to the gray coloring that shows up on their body once they reach a healthy, mature age. The silverback gorilla has a responsibility to its family, or clan, which may contain several dozen gorillas.
He must find food for the whole group, as well as defend them from threats, which can include rival male gorillas who want to take over his clan. Silverbacks help mothers and infant gorillas during the weaning process, and also help to socialize babies as they grow within the clan.
Wolf packs are very social groups, and while the whole pack is involved in helping raise the pups, the daddy wolf has some extra responsibilities, including guarding their home (called a “den”) and leading the hunt for the pack’s food.
The wolf pack is made up of a male and female pair, which tend to stay together for life. After the pups are born, the mother must stay nearby and can’t leave the den for a long time. So, it comes down to the father to track down food for the whole family and make sure no threats to the den get close enough to cause harm to the mother and her pups.
3. Emperor Penguin
The emperor penguin male has one of the most serious tasks of any dad in the Animal Kingdom. Once the mother lays her single egg for the season, it’s up to the father penguin to keep it warm in the freezing Antarctic temperatures. To do this, he’ll have to keep the egg secure between his fluffy, feathery legs for two grueling months.
During this time, the male penguin doesn’t eat, and must keep his egg balanced safely and nestled between his legs, in his brooding pouch, until the mother returns. During the harsh winters, freezing winds can be well over 100 miles per hour, and the male penguin must stand firm to keep his egg warm and incubated.
Marmosets are small monkeys that live in South America. Like their larger primate relative, the gorilla, marmosets live in large families where everyone does their part. But marmoset dads take a special role in raising their babies.
They help to groom and feed their young, along with other members of the family unit. The fathers will also give their babies piggyback rides, carrying them around on their back. They also help in the birthing process, acting as monkey midwives to help bring their newborns into the world.
Flamingo fathers are big on equality - they share much of the chick-raising duties with the mother. Rather than having each parent perform different tasks, flamingo fathers and mothers take turns making sure their eggs and chicks are well cared for.
To care for their egg, moms and dads switch off on incubation duties. Each parent spends time sitting atop the nest to ensure the egg stays warm. They also must lift and turn the egg every so often - very carefully - to spread the warmth equally, using their bills to do so.
Once the chick hatches, both parents feed the baby milk. How do they do this? Well, unlike mammal milk which is only produced by the mother, birds like flamingoes produce a substance called "crop milk", a liquid created in the birds crop, which is an area usually used to store food. This mixture of fat and protein is the only food young flamingo chicks eat until they're ready to forage for themselves, and both mom and dad are ready to provide!
There are many species of frogs, and many of them have different ways in which the father cares for the offspring. Frogs go through several stages of development before they mature, including the tadpole stage where they use gills to breathe underwater and have a finned tail instead of arms and legs.
While their young are in this tadpole stage, some frog fathers keep their babies in their mouths to help protect them from outside threats. During this time, they often won’t eat food until the tadpoles are old enough to leave their father’s mouth and find their own protection. The dads of some species, like the giant African bullfrog, actually keep the eggs tucked in vocal sacs far in his own throat until they're ready to hatch!
7. Eagle Owl
Eagle owls don’t build their own nests, so in order to find a place for the mother to lay her eggs, the male owl must seek out an area that already fits the couples' needs - usually a cave or hole on the side of a cliff or rock face. Once they find a suitable place, the mother will lay her eggs.
While she stays behind to keep the eggs warm, it’s dad’s job to hunt for enough food for his growing family. Not only does he need to feed himself, as well as the much larger mother of his chicks, he’ll also need to find food for his babies once they hatch. After a month or so, the mother will join in the hunt, but in that crucial period before and just after the eggs hatch, it’s up to dad to keep everyone well fed.
Like other animals we’ve discussed so far, fox fathers must hunt for food, while the mother stays home to keep the babies warm and feed them milk. She’ll rely on dad to keep her fed, so that she can keep providing nourishment to her pups. Fox dads also play with their children, romping around with them for hours on end.
Once the pups get older, fathers employ an interesting tactic to help train their children to find their own meals. A father fox will hide food somewhere close to the den, covered with leaves and other debris to keep it hidden, and then send his pups out to find the food themselves. This teaches them to follow their nose and forage for their own food when they’re old enough to leave home.
Seahorse dads have one of the more unique childcare situations in the entire Animal Kingdom. In most animals, it’s the mother who carries her young in her body until she’s ready to give birth or lay her eggs. In the case of the seahorse, it’s actually the opposite!
The mother seahorse will lay her eggs in the dad’s brooding pouch – an area on the front of his body where the eggs can be stored until they’re ready for hatching. It’s up to him to make sure the eggs are safe and sound until they hatch, at which point the father seahorse goes into a kind of “labor” in which the babies leave the brooding pouch and enter their new undersea world. This can last several days!
After this, he’ll stick around and make sure his new babes are safe. Seahorses mate for life, so he’ll keep this process up with the same mother for the rest of their days.
Lion dads have something of a bad reputation in the animal parenting world. And it’s not entirely undeserved – male lions are often seen lounging about lazily while the female lionesses do all the hunting. Even after the hunters return with the family’s meat, the dad still gets the best bits before mom and the cubs get to join in.
Where the lion fulfills his daddy duties is in defense of his pride. A group of lions can contain over 30 individuals, and it falls upon father to keep them safe. Any time a threat appears, father lions will fiercely protect their pride by any means necessary. Is that enough to make up for all the freeloading? That’s a matter of opinion.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the world of animal fatherhood. You can get your own Safari Ltd animal toys and roleplay being an animal dad yourself in our store!