Though there are plenty of wrong ways, there’s no one right way to be a dad. A gander at the animal kingdom is proof that fatherhood is more art than science, because every species does it differently. Some dads take deadbeat to another level: like the grizzly bear, who will eat his cubs if they come near his turf. Or the sand goby, who eats his eggs that take too long to hatch so can be done with care-taking and get back to sexy time.
Then there are the standup guys who raise their young properly no matter how delicious they look. What follows is a list of fathers who flip their middle flipper at gender stereotypes, who see the lure of bachelorhood and turn the other whisker, who shoulder the load of parental duties regardless of whether or not they have shoulders. These are the greatest fathers in the animal kingdom.
The vixen stays in her den an entire month after birth to act as a constant heat and food generator for the litter, so the red fox father takes it upon himself to hunt nonstop to deliver food to his foxy lady every 4 to 6 hours. During the cubs’ first few months, the father teaches the little ones how to hunt by burying food and having them sniff it out, how to flee predators by play wrestling, and how to get their own damn dinner by gradually bringing less and less home.
After momma penguin lays an egg, she must go chill in the ocean for 2 months to eat and float around and stuff. The father spends that time balancing atop his egg to keep it warm until hatching, remaining perfectly still so as not to expose and kill the baby in the -100º winter air. Dads often lose 25 pounds in this process because they don’t eat the entire time mom is out floating around with god knows who.
After a fancy courtship filled with dancing and romantic sunrise swims along the beach, seahorse males (seastallions?) are thanked with a love ’em and leave ’em-type lady who gives him a faux pregnancy. While they’re still eggs, a seahorse father cares for his babies in a front pouch that probably used to be sixpack abs before parenting weighed him down, and he then continues watching over the children until they get real jobs and can care for themselves.
Roach dads literally eat shit for their kids. Bird poop contains nitrogen, an important staple in roach diets, which the dads eat and regurgitate for the kids. Wood-feeding cockroaches take it another step by keeping the baby room clean to stave off infections, and the only thanks he gets is their shit-eating grin.
When he’s not impersonating Sloth from The Goonies, the male lumpsucker sucks lumps. Specifically, he uses his suction cup-like pelvic fin to attach himself to an object in the vicinity of some lucky lady’s over 200,000 eggs. When a predator meanders too close to his babies, the lumpsucker dad scares the crap out of it, which is all he’s ever really been good at anyway.
After a bizarre mating ritual with water humping and fighting, water bugs do the nasty 10 to 50 times for several hours until the female lays enough eggs to cover daddy’s back. He spends the next 3 weeks completely satisfied. He also protects his young diligently and periodically exposes them to air to prevent mold until they hatch.
Marmoset dads act as midwives during birth by licking the newborn clean, presumably, in between gag reflexes. Because a marmoset mom births 2 sets of twins every year that make up 25 percent of her body weight, dad stays monogamous and very involved in carrying, feeding, and grooming his family.
The Arowana fish — or as it’s known among locals, Airy Jane — has a male who not only builds a nest and protects his young long after they hatch, he’s a mouthbrooder. He not only has a less than enthused expression, Arowana mouthbrooding involves carrying hundreds of babies in the mouth, letting them out to explore occasionally but always sucking them back in around danger.
Sandgrouse are small birds scattered across Africa, The Middle East, and Eastern and Central Asia. These monogamous dads trek arounds 120 miles roundtrip every day to get water for their newly hatched chicks. For two months, until the babies can fly themselves, the dads soak up water with their breast feathers and then carry it back home. These breast feathers can even hold up to a quarter of their body weight. Talk about pecs.