Animal associations

Father’s Day: 5 Animal Dads Worse Than You

What if your children inherited your negative habits? What if you let your kids watch too much TV or feed them the wrong foods?

Dubious animal sires include grizzlies that eat their young when food is scarce, and lions that stand guard and look tough as female lions venture out to hunt and kill.

“So when you feel exhausted, or there’s too much on your plate, as long as you don’t eat your baby? Yeah, that’s fine,” Boozan wrote in her book. “When the panic mounts and the pressure starts to build, remember you’re trying…and that’s all that matters.”

Here are three more bad animal dads that might make you feel better about your parenting efforts this Father’s Day.


“It’s not just moms, some dads suck too! Not all of them are hot and snuggly,” Boozan wrote. “A pipefish father will eat his children if he thinks they are ugly.”

Male pipefish can become pregnant and give birth, but their interest in being foster fathers may only last during pregnancy. A key factor in that decision-making could be how the male pipefish feels about the mother of his offspring, researchers at Texas A&M University found in 2010.
There are mothers worse than you -- in the animal kingdom
A male pipefish who liked a female partner he had mated with was more likely to nurture his offspring, the researchers found. Male pipefish that were less interested in mother pipefish were less attentive to their young, investing fewer resources in them. Pipefish fathers are also known to suck nutrients from some of their embryos, effectively cannibalizing them, according to a 2009 article in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Stallions fight in the marshes of the Camargue in Provence in France.

“Horses look like great daddies, but, uh, they’re not the best,” Boozan wrote. “They will threaten the children of the other horses and beat them directly to death.”

If a stallion is able to raise a lot of offspring, he has a genetic advantage over other stallions, according to Good Horse, a riding forum run by horse trainer and behavior consultant Diamanto Mamuneas. But since a stallion cannot give birth, he can never be completely sure that all nearby foals are his – which can be stressful as stallions invest a lot of time and resources in caring for and protecting their offspring when they could mate or eat. And as foals mature, they become competition for stallions in the breeding pool.
Caring for the offspring of rivals is futile, so stallions have developed strategies to avoid having to breed unrelated foals – including killing off young colts, according to a study published in the journal Applied. Animal Ethology.

poison dart frogs

A male Shiny-thighed Poison Frog (Allobates femoralis) carries his young on his back in Peru's Tambopata National Reserve.

“Poison Frog Daddy is less of a ‘hit’ and more of a ‘failure,'” Boozan wrote. “To prevent his eggs from drying out, he sometimes uses his piss.”

Poison frog dads guard their offspring for 10 to 18 days, occasionally urinating on them to protect them from predators and keep them moist.
Eggs require “significant additional moisture to avoid” desiccation, according to Animal Diversity Web, an online zoology resource produced by the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

Calming parents’ anxieties

Many parenting books are meant to sell things, Boozan said, to make readers feel like better parents.

They felt like the world had left them behind: Raising young children in a pandemic

“I wanted to sell them things to make them feel good (parent), and they don’t have to buy that other crap,” she added.

“Buying a specific swaddle blanket or another type of Binky won’t make you a better or worse parent,” Boozan said. “I think you’re going to be a good parent no matter how hard you try. My goal was to allay those fears, if only for a moment with a little laughter.”