In the animal kingdom, there are great dads and, well, not so great dads – at least according to our human standards. There are hands-on dads, there are dads whose hands-on approach includes eating their young; there are dads who are the primary caretakers, there are dads who have no relationship with their kids at all. Click through to check out some of the best and worst animal dads!
1. Best: Great Horned Owl
The male Great Horned Owl is an essential figure in owlet rearing. While mama owl is busy tending to her young ones, papa owl is out hunting for food for the entire family. Considering that, on average, the female is about 25% larger than the male, papa owl has a lot of hunting to do! Indeed, the Great Horned Owl might just be one of the hardest working dads in the animal kingdom.
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2. Worst: Polar Bear
The only role polar bears play in procreation is the act of procreation itself — polar bears are the deadbeat dads of the arctic! And that’s not all; polar bear dads have no qualms about eating cubs, including their own.
3. Best: Emperor Penguin
The emperor penguin dad is probably one of the most famous great father figures in the animal kingdom. And for good reason — male emperor penguins take care of the egg for months while the female goes off to feed. In the dead of winter — and without any food of his own. Eggs are very susceptible to the harsh arctic climate, and the dedicated dads that keep them safe and warm for months each winter deserve our praise.
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4. Worst: Assassin Bug
It’s the male, not the female, assassin bugs that are tasked with protecting the eggs until they hatch. That sounds like a good dad in the making, right? Yeah, not so much. The males actually eat some of the eggs.
5. Best: Red Fox
Red foxes are usually monogamous — at least during the annual mating season — and the male has a big role in bringing up the kits. When the mama red fox is holed up in her den caring for her young, papa red fox is out hunting for the family. He also helps protect the kits in the den and, in the event of the mother’s death, will take over as the primary caregiver. And that’s not all: red fox dads also love to play with their young, and help teach the kits essential survival skills before they go out on their own.
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6. Worst: Bass
Plenty of animal dads help protect their young, but the bass only does this to a point. When most of the young have gone off into the deep blue sea, their father will eat off any of the remaining babies that haven’t quite made the leap into adulthood.
7. Best: Seahorse
Talk about a great dad — the male seahorse is the one that gets pregnant! Well, sort of: female seahorses deposit their eggs into a pouch on the male seahorse’s body. The male carries, and eventually gives birth to, the baby seahorses. But that’s where their role in child rearing ends; after giving birth, the male has no relationship with his young.
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8. Worst: Grizzly Bear
When male grizzly bears do interact with their young, which is quite rare, it’s certainly not a good thing. Male grizzlies have extremely large territories, sometimes hundreds of miles, and they do not take kindly to other grizzlies on their turf — even their own children.