Last week we visited a farm, which left me reflecting on animal parenting behavior.
Some animals develop on their own, like chickens, who don’t even need a mother hen to care for them. They just get up and go! And they huddle together in big fluffy clumps, keeping one another company and, I guess, learning from one another. Honestly, the pecking order is a disturbing thing to witness – the way the scrawniest chicks have no feathers on their rumps, because the bigger ones peck them off. It’s cruel, and, I think, a sign of the chicken’s low intelligence. No wonder they don’t need parents, they run entirely on instinct, or at least the breed I saw. As the German director Werner Herzog said, “Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”
Baby lambs and pigs, on the other hand, had greater civility in their community. The little lambs huddled together around their mothers, cute and defenseless, watched over by a great big guard dog. They were docile and gentle with one another. While the pigs were rammy and playful, like energetic toddlers testing the limits of their pens. They too were mom-centric, and in fact the boar was kept apart from them, in part out of fear he might eat them. (Though there was a horror story of a mommy pig who bit one of her babies head off, in front of a tour group no less! Nature is strange.)
Our trip made me wonder – how involved are fathers out there in the animal kingdom?
Humans are not the only species who value active, engaged, and present dads. On the whole, the females of the species care for the young, but there are notable exceptions to this in all forms of wildlife. Click below to find eight great examples of male animals who take an active role in caring or raising their offspring.