The 9 Best Dads of the Animal Kingdom

Emily Deemer June 16, 2017 10

We wanted to wish a happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, both human and animal fathers alike!

As a tribute to hardworking dads, we made a list of some of the animal kingdom’s most dedicated dads. Weigh in on the comments section and tell us which species you think is the best father figure.

Even better, send this article to the fathers in your life, telling them which animal father he reminds you of the most!

#9: Lion

lion father and cub

(c) / Exclusivepix

The male lion sometimes gets a bad rap when it comes to parenting. He is known for lounging in the shade while his lioness risks her life hunting all day long. Hunting is no easy task for her considering male lions eats about 65 pounds of meat per day! What’s worse, when mom brings in a kill, dad always gets dibs on the first juicy cut before mom and the kids get to eat. However, when his pride is in danger, the male lion really steps up and becomes ferociously protective of his pride, which can consist of 30 or more lionesses and cubs. When he senses a threat, his fatherly intuition kicks in and he does anything and everything to ensure the safety of his family. Join us on an African safari to see lions in the wild.

#8: Gorilla

(c) Suzanna Spencer

(c) Suzanna Spencer / Natural Habitat Adventures

A typical gorilla father is in charge of a clan as large as 30 gorillas. He is responsible for finding food for his group, which is a big job seeing as gorillas typically eat up to 50 pounds of food per day! He is quite respectful of the mother of his children, always dining with her first before letting the kids join in on the meal. A gorilla dad is also very attentive, fending off threats by fiercely beating his chest and charging enemies. He often has to fight off other male gorillas who are known to kill baby gorillas when trying to take over the group. He spends a good deal of time with their young until they become teenagers, playing lovingly with his offspring and settling any arguments that arise between siblings. See gorillas in their natural habitat on our Uganda and Rwanda tours.

#7: Red Fox

(c) Brad Josephs

(c) Brad Josephs / Natural Habitat Adventures

Male red foxes are doting and indulgent dads, and they enjoy playing and roughhousing with their pups, as most dads do. While the pups are young, the father hunts every day, providing a food delivery service to the den for the cubs and their mother. After about three months, though, the cubs experience a rude awakening: no more free food! The father stops feeding them as a tactic to get the pups to leave the den. But he doesn’t make them go cold turkey, however—he buries food close to the den to help teach them how to sniff and forage for food. See red foxes with us on our Churchill polar bear trips.

#6: African Wild Dog

african wild dogs, father's day

(c) Court Whelan / Natural Habitat Adventures

Just like the puppies of domesticated dogs, African wild dog pups are extremely active and expend quite a few calories throughout the day. Since the pups are unable to eat solid foods until they are about ten weeks old, their father will swallow their food and then regurgitate the softer version for the pups to eat, making sure they get enough nourishment. Some parents will stop at nothing to make sure their kids have a square meal! This feeding practice serves another purpose, too—since the pups have to rely on their fathers for food, it keeps them from wandering too far from home, so they don’t fall prey to enemies.  See African wild dogs on any of Nat Hab’s Botswana safaris.

#5: Golden Lion Tamarin

golden lion tamarin

Photo (c)

By two weeks old, the golden lion tamarin infants are carried on their father’s back nearly 24/7. Dad hands them over to their mother one at a time every two to three hours, then she nurses the baby for around 15 minutes and hands it back to its father. The infants will ride on the father’s back until they are six to seven weeks old. At four weeks, the babies begin to eat soft food, and it’s the father’s job to peel and mash bananas and hand-feed them to his offspring.  See golden lion tamarins in the wild on Nat Hab’s Brazil trip extension.

#4: Greater Flamingo

(c) Joseph Sina / Natural Habitat Adventures

(c) Joseph Sina / Natural Habitat Adventures

Male flamingos are all around good guys. Even while congregating in a flock of thousands of birds, these guys remain monogamous, mating with one special gal for life. Flamingo dads are also feminists, as they wholeheartedly believe in gender equality, which is rare in the animal kingdom. When it comes time to mate, dad helps mom select a nesting site, and together they construct the nest out of mud. Once she lays her egg, the father shares in the responsibility of incubating the egg, as they take turns sitting on the nest for equal amounts of time. Once the hatchling is born, mom and dad share all parenting duties equally.  See greater flamingos on one of Nat Hab’s Galapagos tours.

#3: Frog and toad

(c) Dave Luck / Natural Habitat Adventures

(c) Dave Luck / Natural Habitat Adventures

Collectively, most frog and toad species have some pretty dedicated dads. Some male frogs keep their tadpoles in their mouths until the tadpoles are able to make it on their own. Other amphibian fathers, such as the midwife toad, implant their spawn underneath their skin, usually on their backs of their legs. One type of frog, aptly called the pouched frog, carries their offspring in a pouch on their belly while they develop, much like kangaroos or possums do.

#2: Seahorse


(c) Florin Dumitrescu, via Wikimedia Commons

Male seahorses go above and beyond when it comes to parenting—they are one of the only species in the animal kingdom known for male pregnancy! That’s right, the moms deposit their eggs into the male seahorse’s pouch, then he fertilizes and incubates them for 45 days until they are born as full-on tiny seahorses. Seahorse dads may not experience morning sickness, but they do have to endure contractions as they go through labor.

#1: Emperor penguin



Emperor penguin dads are some of the most dedicated animal fathers out there. By the time the female lays her egg, she’s expended so much energy that her nutritional reserves become exhausted, and she must set out to sea for two months to feed. During that time, the dad takes on the role of single father and keeps the egg warm by ever so carefully balancing the egg between the top of his toes and his belly. He takes his responsibility seriously and doesn’t eat or even move during the entire two months, for if the egg is exposed to the harsh Antarctic cold and wind, the chick won’t survive. If the chick hatches before mom is back, dad will feed the chick with milk he produces from his esophagus. What dedication! See penguins in the wild on one of Nat Hab’s Antarctica adventure cruises.

Which of these animals do you think deserves the “Best Dad Award” this Father’s Day 2017?

Comment below to cast your vote!


  1. Horse lover 3256 January 11, 2021 at 11:12 am - Reply

    My vote goes to the fox hiding food totally make me up for the hunt

  2. tin November 19, 2020 at 7:26 am - Reply

    soo cool

  3. pratik July 13, 2017 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Nice information, I wasn’t aware about them.

  4. jackie June 21, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I think that all these animals are wonderful fathers, but I would vote for the Emperor Penguin and the Flamingo. The sharing of the tasks between the males and females is incredible and it just touches my heart to see the devotion of these 2 and all of these 9 animal fathers to their children. Happy Father’s Day to all the animal dads!

  5. Mario world November 12, 2016 at 7:56 am - Reply

    I think the red fox. Once I read a book about them and the father fox does not even get to go in the den, he has to deal with the freezing cold, AND he has to hunt for family. A lot of work.But I think number one should be human dads. Yup. Happy father’s day!

  6. L Balagopal June 19, 2016 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    The Emperor Penguin indeed does an unbelievably great job, but my vote for best dad, from among those featured here, goes to the Red Fox, who, by cleverly hiding food and motivating his kids to smell it out, incorporates a bit of brain training into parenting.

  7. June September 9, 2014 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Definately the Emperor Penguin! That goes beyond what even most mothers will do. Two months standing gently nursing an egg in the freezing weather with no food? Wow!

  8. Merrilee September 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    The Emperor Penguin has the hardest job, my vote goes to him. His partner also goes through quite an ordeal giving birth. However, i love the equal responsibility of the flamingo.

  9. Tracey September 6, 2014 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    It’s a tough choice but I think I’d give the ‘best Dad award’ to the Emperor Penguin. Pretty tough 2 months incubation, very dedicated.

  10. Rajasthan June 16, 2014 at 5:22 am - Reply

    Like human beings, animals also take good care of their children. I have witnessed this live at Ranthambore National Park where a lion was handling his cub with a great care.

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