It’s easy to think the animal kingdom is a vicious, dog-eat-dog world. Wildlife documentaries show us male lions killing cubs they suspect of trying to take over the pride, or grizzly bears attacking any young that happen across their territory.
But that’s not the whole story. So to celebrate Father’s Day, we decided to shine a light on the very best dads to be found in the animal kingdom. Here’s our run down in reverse order:
Prize for Protective Pops…
The red fox
The native-to-these-shores red fox is a tender and devoted father. These little guys are found all over the UK and can often be spotted in the spring scurrying back and forth to its den. The female vixen stay with their young at all times, which means Fox Dad is tasked with protecting and bringing food to the family every few hours. And that isn’t where it ends – as they get older, the father teaches his young how to forage by leaving morsels of food under leaves and twigs nearby for them to find. That. Is. Adorable.
Distinction for Disgusting but Devoted…
The midwife toad
These guys weren’t indigenous to the UK, but since being accidentally introduced to a pond in Bedford in the late 1800s they have made the UK their home. Keep an eye out if you visit Center Parcs Woburn Forest in Bedforshire – you never know where you may spot one! They make great, if slightly gruesome, fathers. As soon as the female lays her eggs, the male embeds them under the skin on his back and his hind legs. You know, for safety. He carries them around like that until they are ready to spawn, at which point they pop out (sorry, it’s true) and he carefully places them in a pond to grow big and strong.
Top Marks for Taking One for the Team…
If you think the midwife toad works his socks off, this next one deserves a medal. Seahorses are one of the very few creatures where the male is impregnated and carries the young. He has something called a ‘brood pouch’, where the female deposits her eggs. He fertilises them and carries them for up to 25 days. After this he experiences contractions and eventually births the eggs! Unfortunately, this is where the devotion ends, and he then swims off and leaves the young to fend for themselves. Hmmm.
Medal for Mentoring…
Once native to the UK, these majestic pack animals were tragically hunted to extinction across the island during the reign of Henry VII. For all their fearsome reputation, wolves comes about as close to the traditional nuclear family model as any creature in the animal kingdom. Monogamous by nature, the male and female work in a close partnership to protect and feed the young. As the pups (technical term but also fiercely cute), the male wolf guides and mentors them through to adulthood, teaching them how to hunt and defend their group. Quite often a wolf’s young is welcomed into his own pack.
First Place for Fantastic Feathered Father…
The Emperor penguin
All bets are off – the Emperor penguin reigns supreme in the doting father world. The hardest working dad in the animal kingdom gets to work the moment the egg is laid. He scoops it onto his feet and dutifully protects it from the lethal 89 mph winds that blow across the Antarctic until it is ready to hatch. With temperatures dropping as low as -40°, and even momentary contact with the freezing ice below being possibly fatal for the embryo inside, it is a demanding task. The penguin fathers team up and create a huddle, rotating through to the warmth of the middle so no dad is left to weather the worst of the element for too long.
So fathers in the animal kingdom often get an unfair wrap. Some are every bit as loving, devoted and all-round awesome as human dads. Treat yours this Father’s Day and let him know you think he’s every bit as good as an Emperor penguin.
Happy Father’s Day!