Photo Gallery: Animal Fathers




Father and Puppy Dachshunds

Photograph by Liliya Kulianionak

Father and puppy dachshunds (Canis lupus familiaris)





Meerkat Family

Photograph by EcoPrint

In a meerkat mob, every member has a job to do. Father meerkats (Suricata suricatta) contribute by protecting the young from intruders.





English Bulldog Family

Photograph by WilleeCole

English bulldogs (Canis lupus familiaris), father and puppy





Eastern Gray Kangaroos

Photograph by Anna Jurkovska

To establish dominance, male eastern gray kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) often “box” each other.





Dog and Skunk

Photograph by Joel Sartore

During their winter sleep, female skunks (Mephitis mephitis) typically share a den with other females and their young, but males tend to sleep alone.





Male Ponders

Photograph by Casinozack

During courtship, a male pond slider (Trachemys scripta) will swim toward a female, stretch out his front feet, and then flutter his long claws all over her head and neck.





Giant Pandas

Photograph by Mitsuaki Iwago

Solitary for most of the year, male giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) seek out company during breeding season in the spring months from March to May.





Father Lion and Child

Photograph by Morales

Male lions (Panthera leo) first grow their striking manes, which vary in color from black to blond, starting at age three.





Bonobos' Father's Day

Photograph by Cyril Ruoso

Unlike females, male bonobos (Pan paniscus) typically maintain contact with their mothers during adolescence and into their adult lives.





Bonobos' Father's Day

Photograph by Cyril Ruoso

Unlike females, male bonobos (Pan paniscus) typically maintain contact with their mothers during adolescence and into their adult lives.





Father Elephants

Photograph by Gerry Ellis

The largest male African elephants (Loxodonta africana) with the biggest tusks are the most likely to become fathers.





Relaxed Polar Bears

Photograph by Michio Hoshino

An adult male polar bear (Ursus maritimus) can weigh up to 1,760 pounds and measure more than eight feet long from nose to tail.





Bear Catching a Fish

Photograph by Joel Sartore

A male brown bear (Ursus arctos) may reach sexual maturity around five years of age, but he typically won’t become a dad until he’s reached his full size at about age ten.





Great Horned Owl

Photograph by Joel Sartore

The most common owl in North and South America, the great horned owl is a hard-working partner and father. In late winter, while his mate stays on the nest with their clutch of two or three eggs, the male heads off to find food for both of them, carrying rats, mice, and squirrels back to the nest. Once the chicks hatch, his job gets harder—he now has to feed an additional two or three mouths.





Greater Flamingos

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Flamingo males are both loving husbands and attentive fathers. They congregate in flocks that can number in the hundreds of thousands, but flamingos generally remain monogamous for life. A male dutifully follow his spouse's lead in selecting a nesting site and then aids in the construction of the mud nest. Both take turns incubating their single egg and defending the nest, and both share duties in rearing the hatchling.





Red Fox

Photograph by Joel Sartore

Male red foxes are attentive dads, playing excitedly with their pups and bringing food home for the whole family. After about three months, though, the gravy train stops and the young foxes must find their own meals. Dad doesn't let them go hungry, however—he hides food nearby, helping teach the pups to sniff out a snack.





Greater Rhea

Photograph by Nicole Duplaix

The male rhea, a large, flightless bird from South America related to the ostrich, has a bit of a wandering eye when it comes to mating. But no one could accuse him of being an absentee dad. Each mating season, male rheas build a nest and invite the members of their harem, up to 15 females, to deposit their eggs. The females then go off to look for other mates while the male stays to incubate the clutch, which can contain 25 to 50 eggs. For six weeks the father eats little and rarely leaves the nest. He then rears the hatchlings, defending them aggressively and charging any animal—even a female rhea—that approaches too closely.





Seahorse

Photograph by George Grall

It's true that male seahorses never play catch with their children or help them with their homework. But they do outdo human dads on one count—by giving birth. Seahorses are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young, a unique trait in these fish that inhabit tropical and temperate coastal waters worldwide.

Male seahorses are equipped with a brood pouch on their ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female deposits her eggs into his pouch, and the male fertilizes them internally. He carries the eggs in his pouch until they hatch, then releases fully formed, miniature seahorses into the water.






Emperor Penguins

Photograph courtesy Giuseppe Zibordi/Michael Van Woert

Traditional parenting roles are reversed for emperor penguins, which live only on the harsh Antarctic ice. After a female penguin lays an egg during the winter breeding season, she promptly takes off to feed at sea. The job of keeping the precious egg warm falls squarely on the male's shoulders—or feet, to be exact.

Males stand and protect the egg by balancing them on their feet and covering them with feathered skin known as a brood pouch. During this two-month period, the males eat nothing and are at the mercy of the Antarctic elements. Once the chick is hatched, the male feeds it with milk from a gland in his esophagus. When the female returns with a bellyful of food to regurgitate for the chick, the male heads off for his own feeding session at sea.






Just-Hatched Froglets

Photograph by George Grall

Doing his fatherly duty, a male Oreophryne frog in Papua, New Guinea, cradles his clutch and two newly hatched froglets. Each night the male Oreophryne embraces the egg mass, possibly to keep it moist or to protect it from small predators like insects.





African Lion

Photograph by Chris Johns

Male lions are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to fathering. Notorious loungers, they'll lie in the shade, often ignoring their cubs, while the females risk life and limb on the hunt. When a kill is made, they show up and insist on being first to eat, sometimes leaving only scraps for the rest of the pride. It's not until his family is threatened that the male's fatherly instincts kick in. Often charged with the welfare of a dozen lionesses and 20 or more cubs, a male lion will summon all his celebrated ferocity to protect his pride.





Grizzly Bear

Photograph by John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk

There's no getting around it: Male grizzly bears make bad dads. Male grizzlies take no part in the rearing of their offspring, which would be excusable if it weren't for another trait: They will kill any grizzly bear cub they find within their range on the off chance that the baby is not their own. Theories abound, but scientists are at a loss to explain this infanticidal behavior.





Grizzly Bear

Photograph by John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk

There's no getting around it: Male grizzly bears make bad dads. Male grizzlies take no part in the rearing of their offspring, which would be excusable if it weren't for another trait: They will kill any grizzly bear cub they find within their range on the off chance that the baby is not their own. Theories abound, but scientists are at a loss to explain this infanticidal behavior.