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Dads in the wild - Vetster

Let’s hear it for the dads! We’re wishing a very happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there — both human and animal.

When you look around the animal kingdom, it’s incredible how diligently (and how creatively!) our planet’s furry, gilled, and feathered dads find ways to look after their little ones.

In tribute to nature’s hardest working dads, here are 5 animal dads who go above and beyond to answer the call of fatherhood.

The best animal fathers

Emperor penguin dads

Emperor penguin dads are seriously amazing. By the time mama penguin lays her single egg, she’s used up so much energy that she leaves for two whole months to feed. Dad warms the egg in the frigid winter by balancing it on the top of his toes to keep it off the frozen ground. During this time he doesn’t eat, huddling together with other dads to stay warm. If the chick hatches before Mom returns, he’ll feed it with milk he makes in his throat!

Golden-headed lion tamarin dads

Because a female golden-headed lion tamarin often gives birth to twins (and even triplets and quadruplets!), she relies on other members of the group to help carry them around — including Dad. The babies get piggybacks from him and the other helpers to give mom a break, and the male golden-headed lion tamarin also helps with offering food to the infants, and rushing to retrieve them when they fall to the dangerous forest floor! (Sound familiar, human dads?)

Frog and toad dads

If you’re a baby frog or toad, chances are you’ve got a pretty involved dad. Take the male midwife toad, who attaches egg masses to his body and carries them around until they hatch. Or the smooth guardian frog, who provides devoted care for just one clutch of offspring, while the female is the one to have multiple mating partners. There’s even the aptly named pouched frog, who carries his young in a belly pouch.

Seahorse dads

Perhaps the most talked-about dad in the animal kingdom, male seahorses are one of the only species in the animal kingdom known for male pregnancy. The female seahorse deposits her eggs into the male’s pouch, then he fertilizes and incubates them for 45 days. When the tiny seahorses are born, seahorse dads even have contractions as they go through labor!

Emu dads

While female emus may be in charge of egg-laying, they take off soon after. For eight weeks, male emus will incubate the clutch while hardly moving or eating. Once the eggs hatch, the father’s job has only begun. Daddy emu is the one to take care of the young, usually for up to 18 months. This male-only parental care is rare, only happening in about two percent of bird species.

Fun animal dad facts

  • When a red fox becomes a dad, he not only shares in caring for the mom and the pups, he will also act as a single father if the mom dies before the pups are grown.
  • In as many as 90% of bird species, bird fathers contribute equally with mothers to the care of offspring, including time spent sitting on the eggs.
  • Gorilla dads are major hands-on fathers. They play with their young until they’re teens, and even settle arguments between siblings. (We wonder if they tell Dad jokes, too?)
  • Male baboons and macaques have even been shown to intervene if their kids are being bullied by non-family members, keeping harmony within the wider social group. (Play nice, guys!)
  • While African wild dog pups are in the nursing phase, their dad brings them their first solid food: “take-out” that he has swallowed and brought home in his belly… which he then regurgitates for them! That’s love.

Across the natural world, animal fathers give us so many wonderful examples of devotion and care. If you had to cast a vote for nature’s Best Dad Award, it would certainly be hard to choose!