Facts about the animal kingdom

The 10 Best Animal Dads

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: December 10, 2017
The 10 Best Animal Dads

We tend to assume that it's always the mother who takes care of her offspring, but in fact there are many species in which the father does everything within his reach to help his young survive, nurtures them, and ensures they stay healthy and happy.

In this AnimalWised article we'll list the 10 best animal dads: you may have an inkling as to some of them, but you're sure to be surprised by others. What animal would sacrifice himself for his children? Which one feeds them and carries them around?

You'll discover that to be a great dad you don't need to be huge or to have big claws. If you're a father yourself, you'll understand many of the behaviors of these fathers from the animal kingdom. Parenting is not only for humans!

You may also be interested in: Modes of Reproduction in Animals
  1. The Emperor Penguin
  2. The Seahorse
  3. The Owl Monkey
  4. The Giant Water Bug
  5. The Black-Necked Swan
  6. The Gray Wolf
  7. The Red Fox
  8. The Catfish
  9. The Darwin's Frog
  10. The Barking Frog
See more >>

The Emperor Penguin

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are famous for being the largest penguin species, but also for the love they have for their young.

In this species, the female penguin lays a single egg during the unforgiving Antarctic winter. After that, she must go to the sea and feed, so it is the penguin dad who incubates the egg, huddling together with other new fathers for two months in the windy, freezing cold dark. During this period, the dad cannot feed at all. Once the penguin chick is born, the task of raising it and feeding it is shared by the two parents.

Here you can learn more about where do penguins live and what do penguins eat.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Emperor Penguin

The Seahorse

There are more than fifty seahorse species (Hippocampus), and besides their odd physique - it is hard to remember seahorses are fish! - they are famous because it is the males who become pregnant, not the females.

The male seahorse has a special brood pouch, which is displayed during the courtship ritual. If it is successful, the female deposits unfertilized eggs. The fertilization happens inside the pouch with the help of external agents such as seawater. During the seahorse's pregnancy, the father nurtures his eggs with prolactin, a hormone. The process lasts from a week and a half to a month, and the mother visits the pregnant father regularly.

Once the pregnancy is done, the newborn seahorse are hatched inside the pouch and released afterwards. Some seahorse species can give birth to 2,500 young! While the energy spent makes the seahorse one of the best animal dads, the truth is that after the birth both parents abandon the young, and only 0.5% of their offspring survives.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Seahorse

The Owl Monkey

Owl monkeys (Aotus), also called night monkeys, are very special fathers. They are the only true nocturnal type of monkey, and for them, the task of parenting never ends. Owl monkeys form pair bonds, and they are monogamous; in general, they have one child every year.

What places owl monkeys in our ranking of the 10 best animal dads is that after the first week, the males carry their young around, help nurture them and groom them. On the other hand, the mother is only in charge of lactation. This makes the energy expense of the pair more balanced.

Want to learn more about monkeys? Don't miss the native monkeys of India and our guidelines on monkeys as pets.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Owl Monkey

The Giant Water Bug

While not exactly pretty, giant water bugs (Belostomatidae) are very good fathers. The males of this family of insects are the ones who carry the fertilized eggs until they hatch, as they are laid on their wings. In the species where the eggs are laid on the ground, it is still the males who guard them.

The male giant water bug is responsible for protecting his offspring, carrying up to 150 eggs on his back. He certainly deserves a place in our list of the best animal dads!

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Giant Water Bug
Image: National Geographic

The Black-Necked Swan

In fifth place in our list of the best fathers in the animal kingdom is the black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus). If you've ever come across these swans and seen them carry cygnets on their backs, it was probably the dad, not the mom!

The dads of this swan species carry their chicks on their backs to protect them from predators, the cold and other dangers. The male takes care of his offspring for a year, although he makes the greatest effort during their first few weeks of life.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Black-Necked Swan

The Gray Wolf

Gray wolves (Canis lupus), for all their fame of fierceness and wildness, are excellent parents. They are among the animals most faithful to their mates, and the males are exemplary fathers. The wolf dad takes care of feeding his mate after she has given birth, and he also cares for his litter and teaches them how to hunt and survive.

The other aspect that makes the gray wolf one of the best animal dads is that this species also practices alloparental care; if a wolf pup is lost or abandoned, a pair may adopt it and raise it as their own. Here you can learn more about a gray wolf's diet and hunting habits.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Gray Wolf

The Red Fox

Closely related to the gray wolf, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) can be an excellent father to his kits. When the fox kits are born, they are very vulnerable and their mother must stay with them 24/7. The father is in charge of feeding his mate for the first three months.

While fox dads do not actively raise their young, they do teach them how to hunt and ensure their survival. If the mother dies or disappears, for instance, the father will provide for the kits and teach them.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Red Fox

The Catfish

The catfish is not a species, but an order of fish (Siluriformes). There are many species of catfish, but in general the male protects his young by carrying them in his mouth until they reach a size that allows them to survive. During that time, the male catfish goes without eating for the sake of his offspring, which places him in our list of best animal dads.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Catfish

The Darwin's Frog

The male of the Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) is certainly a model father. In this species, pregnancy is quite a complicated process for the mothers, which lay their eggs on leaves. Once they are fertilized, the dad takes charge and protects them. When the embryos are developed enough to start moving, the dad puts them into his mouth!

The Darwin's frog protects his young inside his vocal sac - and we're talking about 40 eggs - and after a few days, they hatch. The dad still carries them around and nurtures them through a yolk-like substance in his sac. When they are grown, he can "vomit" his happy little tadpoles.

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Darwin's Frog

The Barking Frog

As you can see, frogs make great dads! The barking frog (Craugastor augusti) gets its name from the unique noise it makes. The fathers are overly protective of their young and, in extreme cases, they may even urinate on their eggs if they lack the water they need to survive.

Interestingly, barking frogs do not go through the tadpole stage. Instead, they hatch as froglets. Doing your utmost to save your children, no matter how peculiar, is to be admired. This is why the barking frog makes our list of the 10 best animal dads!

The 10 Best Animal Dads - The Barking Frog

Did you enjoy reading our list of the 10 best animal dads? Have we forgotten a father than deserves to be on this list?

Leave your comments and share these items to celebrate Father's Day. We at AnimalWised know how important it is to be a good father. Perhaps the incredible lengths these fathers go to for their young can inspire us to be better parents ourselves.

If you want to read similar articles to The 10 Best Animal Dads, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Image: National Geographic
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The 10 Best Animal Dads