gap with animal mothers

In Search of the Missing Link: What Is It That Makes Us Human?

“To imagine new events you need an open-ended system capable of combining old information into new scenarios. If mental time travel evolved for this purpose, then the price of this flexibility is that we may at times reconstruct past events creatively rather than faithfully—which explains some of the typical errors of episodic memory.”

Professor Thomas Suddendorf

Bridging the Gap With Animal Mothers

Thomas Suddendorf, the author of “The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals” grew up in Germany. He completed his postgraduate studies in New Zealand. Traveling the world in pursuit of scientific truths, he has earned awards from the Australian Psychological Society as well as the American Psychological Association. His book received critical acclaim and is already being translated into several languages.

A review of the book points to several phrases that help define its purpose, which is to determine exactly what it is that differentiate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. One of the focuses of his research is comparing the mental capacities of human children with those of animals to answer the elusive question of what lies between the gap with animal mothers as compared to human ones.

Among those differences are a “drive to connect with other minds” and “nested scenario building”, which is described as a form of mental time travel. According to Suddendorf, one aspect of the human gap with the animal mother is the ability to imagine what others may be thinking. While a sentence such as

“I think she thinks that I think that she likes me”

may be a little confusing, we are able to determine its meaning. For animals, such a sentence with a similar meaning would be literally unthinkable. Unlike our cousins, the apes, we are able to imagine scenarios without ever having experienced them, including dangerous scenarios, which we can rehearse from the safety of our armchairs.

Former Theories of Possible Differences

Professor Suddendorf isn’t the first to ask and attempt to answer the question of the gap with animal mothers. Mark Twain pointed out that the difference between animals and humans was the ability to blush, and added that humans were the only species that had reason to do so.

One answer to the question of the gap with animal mothers was the human ability to use tools, but researchers have discovered cases in which animals too have not only used, but invented, tools.

Others have suggested that it was cooking food, but Bonobos have been observed to be able to build a fire as well as cook. Of course, he did use matches invented by humans to do it.

The human ability to formulate language was once believed to be the difference between humans and other species. However, several other species have demonstrated the ability to learn both the sounds and meanings of many words in human language, as well as communicate through sign language.

Anthropologist and author Ernest Becker, in his brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Denial of Death” postulated that the answer to the gap with animal mothers is that humans are the only species with awareness of their own mortality. While researchers like Professor Suddendorf have conducted experiments which demonstrate that members of the ape family closest to humans are able to recognize their own images in a mirror, awareness of mortality would be much more difficult to determine.

According to Suddendorf, the major differences lie in the human desire to know what is in the hearts and minds of others and the ability to imagine things we haven’t actually experienced. These two traits resulted in humans being able to develop language and use memory to mentally visualize the future, a form of abstract reasoning necessary to survive within complex social networks. He also believes that being able to imagine what others may be thinking or feeling, or empathy, contributed to the development of morality. However, he concludes that we may never fully understand the gap with animal mothers because our closest living genetic relatives are quickly becoming extinct. If that happens, any future research that may hold the key to our genetic past, and perhaps our future, will be lost.

If you’ve ever wondered about the gap with animal mothers, or what made humans able to invent the wheel or control fire, you might enjoy Professor Suddendorf’s TED talk . It is as educational as it is entertaining.

gap with animal mothers
Human physiognomies next to animal physiognomies. Etching, c. 1820, after C. Le Brun. CC BY 4.0 Wikimedia Commons
rhesus animal mother

The Importance of Extended Family and What We Can Learn From Our Distant Cousins

“In our study of psychopathology, we began as sadists trying to produce abnormality. Today, we are psychiatrists trying to achieve normality and equanimity.”

–Harry Harlow

The Rhesus Animal Mother and Her Contributions to Science and Motherhood

The rhesus animal mother has contributed more to our knowledge of human development than most people realize, and at a great cost. Harry Harlow, a contemporary of Abraham Maslow, conducted research using rhesus monkeys that demonstrated the importance of caregiving and companionship in social and cognitive development. In 1932, he began a breeding colony of Rhesus macaques in order to study their natural behavior. He then performed scientific experiments and noted how their behavior changed under certain conditions.

In nature, the rhesus animal mother is diurnal, and raises her young both in trees and on land. They are mostly herbivorous, feeding mainly on fruit, seeds, roots and bark. Females can outnumber males by as much as 4:1, and they have a separate hierarchy from that of the males. For breeding purposes, they exhibit philopatry, which is returning to the same breeding ground repeatedly. Females have very strong matrilineal hierarchies. Her rank depends upon the rank of her mother. A single group of females may have a number of matrilineal lines within the hierarchy. Unlike other species of monkeys, part of the ranking is based on fitness and fertility, which results in younger females often ranking higher than their older sisters.

Males provide resources and protection from predators, so the potential rhesus animal mother attempts to mate with larger males that are most likely to ensure the survival of their young. During the breeding period of up to eleven days, females mate with up to four males. The rhesus animal mother reaches sexual maturity at four years of age, and remains fertile until menopause at age twenty-five. Males, aside from their role as protectors and providers, do not participate in raising their offspring, but maintain peaceful relationships with them.

A rhesus animal mother with an infant and one or more older daughters that have not yet reached child-bearing age often delegate infant care to those daughters. These high-ranking females often reject their infants and mate earlier in the breeding season than usual after having given birth. Some even abuse their infants, investing little time in their development. These behaviors are associated with the increased stress of caring for multiple offspring.

In his study, Harry Harlow reared rhesus monkeys in a nursery setting, rather than with their mothers. This controversial study involved a high degree of maternal deprivation. The rhesus animal mother raised in isolation without its own mother has difficulty accepting contact with infants or exhibiting normal maternal behavior. During these experiments, monkeys were isolated for periods of time ranging from 3 months to up to 15 years, then placed in various settings where their behavior was observed. Abnormal behaviors that resulted from the isolation included blank staring, repetitive motion and circling, and even self-mutilation. Consequently, there was a loud public outcry against the cruelty of these experiments.

One of the reasons for the public outcry is that rhesus monkeys are so close to humans, sharing 93% of our DNA. They also have similar cognitive abilities, including the ability to understand rules, make judgments, and be aware of their own mental states. In 2014, it was reported in India that an unconscious rhesus monkey was revived by another giving it a crude kind of CPR. The results of these studies, although they were obtained in such a cruel manner, provide some important information.

For monkeys that were isolated for six months, it was found that they could achieve complete social recovery by being exposed to younger monkeys that provided peer therapy. It was also found that the experience of touch is extremely important. Monkeys that were touch deprived, in addition to abnormal behaviors, also displayed weakened immune systems. The studies showed an indisputable link between the amount of physical contact such as grooming an infant received in the first six months and its ability to produce antibodies by one year of age. Valuable research is still being conducted with rhesus monkeys, but using far more humane methodology.

One of the most important results of Harlow’s experiments was reducing the influence of childcare “experts” that advocated not spoiling children with too much affection. The human mother owes a debt of gratitude to her distant cousin, the rhesus animal mother, for her sacrifices in demonstrating the true power of a mother’s loving touch.

rhesus animal mother
Rhesus monkey, by Aiwok
bonobo animal mother

Sisterhood Is Powerful: The Bonobo Animal Mother

Human mothers could learn a few things from a bonobo animal mother. One of the most important parenting skills of the bonobo animal mother is mastering group dynamics. In addition to being smaller than their cousins, the chimpanzee, one of the distinguishing features of the bonobo is their matriarchal society. Despite being smaller than the males, through the power of sisterhood, female bonobos enjoy superior social status. Bonding together, they present a united front in support of the alpha female.

One of the bonding mechanisms of peaceful bonobo society is sexuality, which is utilized for many purposes other than reproduction. In fact, sexual activity between females is common, and serves a variety of purposes in addition to creating strong bonds. Bonobos are non-monogamous, and rather sexuality being a form of exclusive commitment, it is instead a form of social diplomacy. It may be one of the reasons that rank is less important in bonobo society than in those of other primates.

Sex among bonobos serves many of the same purposes that it does for humans. Sexual behavior is engaged in to de-escalate aggression, express excitement, or even as a form of greeting. Whatever the reason, the result is usually an increase in sharing and compassion. These beneficial effects of sexuality have been described by sex therapist Dr. Susan Block in her book “The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure”.

Similarities and Differences Between the Human Mother and the Bonobo Animal Mother

Motherhood has its privileges, and as the sole guardians of future generations, one of those privileges is control over the food supply. Even though bonobo society is a relatively peaceful and harmonious one, bonobo animal mother is a fierce defender. Banding together, the females will attack any male bonobo that poses a threat to the resources necessary to care for their young. They have even been known to bite off fingers and toes.

Males are afforded social status only through the acceptance and consent of the alpha female. The rank of the male is dependent upon the rank of his mother, the sons of alpha mothers enjoying the highest rank among the males. Child-bearing age for the bonobo animal mother begins between 13 and 14 years of age. Unlike human mothers, they only give birth every five to six years. During those five years, the bonobo animal mother carries and nurses her offspring.

Our Genetic Link to the Development of Empathy

Genetically, humans have more in common with the bonobo than most people realize. In fact, humans share 98.7% of their DNA with bonobos. Human lineage diverged from that of chimpanzees and bonobos over five million years ago. Chimpanzees and bonobos diverged only two million years ago, so they still share 99.6% of the same genomes. Unfortunately, the Bonobo, which live along the Congo River, have become an endangered species. In order to preserve them, and everything we can still learn about ourselves through them, an animal sanctuary was created in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There, researchers Zanna Clay and Frans de Waal of Emory University were able to further study study their social behavior. Their focus was on the emotional development of bonobos as expressed by consolatory behavior after experiencing distress during a negative social interaction. The results of their study demonstrated many developmental similarities between bonobos and human children. One of those similarities was the importance of the relationship between mothering and the development of empathy for others.
It was found that orphaned bonobos cared for by the animal sanctuary displayed less empathy and conciliatory behavior than those cared for by their mothers. As with humans, conciliatory behavior includes affectionate touching upon meeting after having distanced as the result of an accidental injury during horseplay or a dispute. Those cared for by their mothers were able to regulate their emotions more effectively, displaying conciliatory behavior sooner than the orphaned bonobos. In human terms, they were less likely to hold a grudge after having been offended or injured.
Empathy and conciliatory behavior is even more important for humans, which experience sibling rivalry as well as social competition for resources. Humans have also developed dangerously sophisticated weaponry with which to resolve their disputes. All parents would do well to foster, and expand, the capacity for empathy found in bonobo society, or we too may one day become an endangered species.
bonobo animal mother
Dedicated Animal Mother

The Awe-Inspiring Parenting Skills And Dedication of Animal Mother : Penguins

Mutual Cooperation and the Importance of Timing

In the realm of the animal kingdom, few animal mothers are as dedicated as penguins, so matter what species of penguin she happens to be. Male penguins are equally dedicated to the preservation and safety of their young. For penguins, the survival of their young is not possible without mutual cooperation and concerted effort.

Penguin parents often have to travel more than 30 miles away from their offspring in order to find food. Neither eggs nor newly hatched chicks can be left alone that long, so penguin parents take turns staying at the clutch to care for them for periods of 10 days or longer. A penguin parent will not leave its egg unless it becomes dangerously close to starvation itself, which is why the timing of their return to the clutch to relieve the other parent must be impeccable.

For tropical African penguins, nick-named jackass penguins because they make a loud noise resembling a donkey, the trek for food is a little easier than for Arctic penguins. If the parents are successful in protecting their young from predators such as girdle lizards and kelp gulls, these penguins can enjoy a life span of over 30 years. Interestingly, their patterns and spots are as individual as human fingerprints which is yet another way these animal mothers can easily distinguish the fathers of their broods.

Jealousy and Family Preservation

Due to changing weather conditions, some Arctic penguins now have to walk close to 70 miles from their laying grounds to feed. Despite the willingness of these amazing animal mothers and fathers to do whatever is necessary to renew the cycle of life, many of them die without being able to return. Unlike humans, the mourning period for the loss of a mate is relatively brief.

Almost immediately, the search is begun for a new mate, However, there have also been cases in which the original mate reappeared after a new mate had already been found. The result was that the new mate, and her eggs, were promptly forced out of his nest by the first mate. The evicted animal mother then had to search for another unattached male. In cases in which the male returned later than anticipated and found a different female than his mate in his nest, the response has been to evict both her and the eggs before leaving to build a whole new nest.

The Importance of Community

Emperor penguins have a longer incubation period than their tropical counterparts. The male penguins care for the eggs during for the entire 60 days while she is away. During those 60 days, she focuses on feeding on and storing food that she will regurgitate to provide nutrients for her young upon her return. Throughout those long months, male penguins huddle together in solidarity and warmth to keep themselves and their eggs from freezing during the harsh Arctic winter. Human father would do well to emulate this behavior and form, as mothers have, parenting support groups for one another. Just as with human parents, it would be almost impossible for these animal mothers and fathers to succeed in raising their young to adulthood completely alone. Without one another, as well as the assistance of the larger penguin community, very few would survive.

Purely by instinct, these animal mothers return from their journeys to find their mates and newly hatched chicks at the appropriate time. However, those age-instincts have been disrupted by changing topography. Sadly, changing weather conditions and shifting land masses due to global warming have resulted in the loss of 50% of Arctic penguins.

In addition to the importance of cooperation, timing, and community for the preservation of family, perhaps an equally important lesson that human parents can learn from penguins is the vital necessity of preserving the planet upon which all life, including ours, is dependent.

Dedicated Animal Mother


How A Male Animal Mother Reacts—Parenting Lessons From Animal Kingdom

A Male Animal Mother?

There is only one known species in the animal kingdom in which it is the male, rather than the female that experiences pregnancy and childbirth. That distinguishing feature belongs to the fish family Syngnathidae, whose members include pipefish, sea dragons, and seahorses.

The female seahorse deposits her eggs within the male’s pouch, where they remain incubating for 45 days until the contractions begin and he gives birth to them. Presumably, during the pregnancy, the female is out shopping for snacks. Through studying seahorses, researchers hope to discover the causes of this evolutionary change.

Once the female has deposited her unfertilized eggs into the male brood pouch, the male fertilizes them and then produces a protective tissue that grows around the eggs. In addition to producing protective tissue, he also controls the salt concentration levels in the pouch. Like human mothers, he also provides oxygen and nutrients through a structure resembling a placenta until the embryos have developed sufficiently to be born.

The sex roles of seahorses are also reversed during the mating ritual. Females compete for males with available pouch space. This role reversal results in the evolution of secondary sex traits like bright colors for purposes of attracting a mate. Seahorses are monogamous during each breeding season, reducing competition and ensuring that each of them has a mate. Since males have childbearing responsibility, they tend to be choosy about which female eggs they accept.

Using molecular markers to analyze maternity, researchers discovered that while male pipefish only receive eggs from a single female, female pipefish often mate with multiple males. That particular mating system is called “classic polyandry”.

Something’s Fishy—Acting Male Animal Mothers

During their spawning period, the male lumpsucker fish’s red coloring on his fins and belly becomes brighter. The females arrive at the spawning site first and lay up to 200,000 eggs in shallow water. When the males arrive, they fertilize the eggs and then attach themselves to an object near the eggs and guard them against predators as they develop. He continues to guard them after they hatch, and when they are strong enough, he guides them to deeper water.

In some species of frogs, the males carry tadpoles in their mouths until they are able to survive independently. They even deny themselves food during the process! Other types of frogs actually embed their young inside their own skin to protect them. The male pouched frog, was named for the pouch in which he carries his babies while they continue to develop and gain strength after hatching.

As Free As a Bird

The phenomenon of the male animal mother isn’t limited to fish and amphibians, either. It is also found in certain species of birds. For example, the jacana, which is a seabird, takes responsibility for building the nest. He also incubates the eggs and cares for the chicks. During this process, the females, much like the pipefish, mate with as many other males as possible before beginning their migration. The males often remain with the nest even after the females have migrated

Many people are familiar with the heroic role the male Emperor penguin plays as a devoted male animal mother. He must act as a mother because the arduous process of laying the egg leaves the mother so depleted that it takes her two months to recover. During that time, she can do little but feed. She must travel to a distant food source, leaving her egg behind with the male to care for it. He assumes the responsibility of keeping the egg warm throughout the winter, which means that he must balance it on the tops of his feet, away from the freezing ice, for two full months.

Another acting male animal mother from the bird family is the male rhea. Although he may mate with up to twelve females, it doesn’t stop him from earning the father of the year award. Not only does he built the nest, he incubates up to 50 eggs at a time for up to six weeks. Once the eggs hatch, he raises the chicks for their first six months with no help whatsoever from any of the mothers.

Male Parenting in Mammals

While wolves have a reputation for being loners, male wolves actually play a big part in the care and feeding of their offspring. They stand guard over their pups when predators are near, and also perform double duty when hunting for food that they generously share with their young until they are able to hunt for themselves.

Male marmosets have been known to act as midwives during the birth of their babies. They also take over the care and nurturing of the infants after the first few weeks. Their male animal mother duties include grooming, feeding and carrying them when necessary.

The most important lesson that we can learn from the animal kingdom is that it’s completely natural for fathers to assume equal, and sometimes even more, responsibility for their children, as mothers.

Here you you will find more about a wonderful mother in the animal kingdom, the wolf.


Worst Animal Mothers

Worst animal mothers – Pandas and Hamsters Do What to Their Babies?!

Some animal mothers do some admittedly horrible things to their young, from abandoning them to letting an older sibling beat them up to outright killing them. As a lawyer might put it, there are usually “extenuating circumstances” behind these behaviors. Animal mothers want to increase the chances of their strongest, fittest offspring surviving — even if it means disposing of a weaker juvenile.

Neglect/Abandonment with the Worst Animal Mothers

Some animal mothers apparently just don’t take very good care of their kids. Pandas, for instance, only take care of one cub — even if they have two. The mother panda feeds and cares for one cub, and leaves the other one to its fate. It takes eight or nine months for panda babies to get fully weaned, and it’s doubtful that the mother could successfully nurse them both. Pandas live on bamboo, which is not the most nutritious of foods. From the mother panda’s perspective, it’s better to have one strong and robust cub rather than two weak ones.

The hooded grebe outright abandons younger chicks. She will lay two eggs and take good care of the first one that hatches. The second egg is simply insurance in case there’s something wrong with the first egg. Once the mother grebe is satisfied that her first chick is perfect, she has no interest in the second chick and abandons it.

Brood Parasitism

Some of the worst animal mothers that engage in brood parasitism can’t even be bothered to raise the kids themselves, but foist the job on someone else. The European Cuckoo, for example, lays her eggs in another bird’s nest. Generally, she lays one egg per nest, and her eggs resemble those of her victim. The cuckoo mother will ensure there’s room for her egg by disposing of at least one of the other eggs. The young cuckoo typically hatches before its host’s chicks do and will quickly shove their eggs over the side of the nest, thus ensuring that its hosts feed it and only it.

Brood parasitism is generally associated with birds, but has been seen in fish and insects. Cuckoo bees and wasps lays their eggs in the nests of other insect species, and they will often kill any host larvae they find to ensure their young get taken care of.

The Worst Animal Mothers and Siblicide

Siblicide means one sibling kills another sibling. It happens a lot in the animal world, and the worst animal mothers generally don’t do anything to stop it. In fact, in a lot of cases, the mother just watches as one juvenile kills another.

Birds, especially birds of prey, are notorious for this. The black eagle mother, for instance, will just sit and watch while her oldest chick kills its sibling. Bird species that practice siblicide often show hatching asynchrony, in which the eggs hatch at different times. The chicks that hatch first quickly gain an advantage over their younger siblings in terms of size and strength. Since there are often more chicks than the mother can really feed, the younger, weaker chicks either starve or get killed by their older siblings.

The black eagle is a case of “obligate siblicide,” for the older chick always kills the younger one even when there’s plenty of food. The black eagle mother had never planned on raising both chicks, but had laid the second egg as an insurance policy in case something happened to the first egg. Once it becomes obvious that the first chick is going to be fine, the second chick or egg is considered superfluous and treated accordingly.

Siblicide does occur in non-avian species. Spotted hyenas are an example of “facultative siblicide,” which means the siblings don’t always kill one another. Hyena siblings do, however, always fight each other for dominance within the litter, and the winning sibling gets the lion’s share of the milk and meat. When there’s plenty of food, all of the siblings may live, but when times are hard the weaker siblings starve to death, for the dominant sibling bullies them away from any food.

Or Maybe Cannibals Might be The Worst Animal Mothers

Quite a few of the worst animal mothers will kill and eat their own young. One example is the burying beetle, which owes its name to its habit of burying a mouse carcass that it then lays its eggs on. The mother beetle eats the meat and regurgitates it to feed her larvae who crowd around her begging. She can only regurgitate so much meat at a time which often means not everybody gets fed. The first larvae do indeed get fed, but any stragglers that are still begging after the mother runs out of meat get eaten.

The reason is that burying beetles often have more young that a mouse carcass can support, so she periodically culls the numbers to get her brood down to a manageable size. Doing so increases the chances of survival for the others by making sure that there is enough food to feed them until they’re old enough to get their own food.

Hamsters may be a lot cuddlier than beetles, but hamster mothers also produce more young than they can realistically raise, and they also eat some of them. Hamsters can’t predict how much food will be available, so they tend to have large litters in the hopes there will be plenty for them. A large litter also serves as an insurance policy. If some of the young have birth defects, the mother will eat them and concentrate on raising the healthy babies.

Animal mothers are plainly much less sentimental than human mothers. So in a sense can we talk about worst animal mothers. It does imply a scale f comparison. In their eyes, the strongest juveniles have the best chance of survival, especially in tough times, so they will devote most of their time and energy on caring for them. An animal mother might spare a weaker juvenile if there are plenty of resources, but she won’t do so if they’re scarce.

Here you you will find more about Mother Bear.

Worst Animal Mothers
Giant panda at Wolong Nature Reserve
animal mothers

Wolf Animal Mothers – An Excellent Role Model of Motherhood

“Wolves are extremely intelligent beings, having great curiosity, the ability to learn quickly, and the full range of emotions people like to attribute to humans alone,” from Running With the Wolves, INc, Ronkonkma, NY.

While most people, especially women, don’t necessarily appreciate being related to wolves, particularly when it comes to intellect and emotional intelligence, the reality is that these animals present an important correlation to both our skills in interacting with one another and our emotional connection to our young. At least the relationship here is more positive than being compared to a monkey, right? In fact, there is actually a great deal we can learn from the mother wolf, in particular. Female wolves are excellent animal mothers who actually demonstrate many of the same stages of preparing for motherhood that human mothers do.

The Stages of Mothering In Animal Mothers

The female wolf presents a unique perspective on mothering, especially as it relates to a human mother. These animal mothers demonstrate excellent motherhood skills as they prepare for and eventually take care of their young. Like human mothers, the wolf mother begins preparing for her young long before the babies or pups, as wolf young are called, are actually present.

Once a wolf mother becomes pregnant, she goes through a phase of furthering her relationship with her mate. Most human mothers go through this stage as well. The wolf mother will spend a great deal of time cuddling, playing, and hunting together with her mate. It is as if she spends this time “focusing” on her mate to prepare for the time that she will focus the majority of her attention on the babies. This phase is a natural extension of the stages of mothering and usually lasts several weeks.

Following this stage of courtship and play, the wolf mother begins denning. This stage can be related to what most human mothers know as “nesting.” The wolf mother looks for a suitable place to whelp, or give birth to, and later care for her pups. The female wolf spends a great deal of time sniffing around for a place to make a den. The mother may reuse the same denning ground as other female wolves if she is part of a large pack. Otherwise, she may find a suitable area and dig her own den. Inexperienced females may dig a shallow pit; however, the knowledgeable wolf mother will dig a deep, large pit to adequately protect her babies. The female claims this area for her and her puppies, not even allowing her mate into the den. She may, however, select a suitable assistant from among the other female wolves in the pack. In time, the entire pack will support and nurture the puppies.

When it is time, the wolf mother enters her den to whelp. Her innate knowledge of caring for her pups is immediately demonstrated in her ability to facilitate the birthing process. As the pups are born, the mother chews off the umbilical cord and licks each pup clean. After all of the pups are born, the animal mother eats the placenta. This demonstration should be a good reminder to human mothers that their bodies naturally know what to do when giving birth. The process is natural, and the body knows how to facilitate the process if only it is allowed to do so.

In order for the pups to survive, the female wolf devotes a great deal of attention to her young in the early days. The mother generally remains in the den with her pups for several days straight following birth in an effort to support their early development. The mother continues to lick and feed the brood and only leaves the pups for a short period after several days. The wolf mother is very protective during these early days and keeps her pups in the den for at least three to four weeks before she will let them out into the light. Again, this protective tendency is much like human mothers demonstrate in their early days immediately following giving birth.

The wolf mother also sees to it that her pups are fed sufficiently. Pups usually nurse five to six times a day for periods of three to five minutes each during the first several weeks. Between five and eight weeks after birth, the mother begins the weaning process during which the pups are fed regurgitated food. The care and attention the mother wolf demonstrates during nursing and weaning are important characteristics from which human mothers can gain insight about providing for their young.

Important Characteristics of Animal Mothers

As is demonstrated throughout the many stages of wolf mothering, these animal mothers are intrinsically good mothers. The female wolf is born with the instincts to prepare for, birth, and later take care of her young. In so doing, she demonstrates important characteristics of motherhood.

The wolf mother is extremely intuitive when it comes to raising her pups. She knows their needs and follows her instincts to provide. The wolf mother is also protective of her young, keeping them in the den until the pups are sufficiently capable to survive outside of the den. The female wolf is also extremely unselfish, demonstrated in her willingness to remain in the den herself to provide for her young.

As mothers we can learn a great deal from the wolf mother and other animal mothers. Her intuitiveness toward motherhood as well as the many honorable characteristics she embodies definitely serve as aspects from which we can learn. Knowing all of that, it’s not so bad to be compared to a wolf, now is it?

Here you you will find more about the Panda mother, who does a pretty lousy job actually …

animal mothers
Wolf and Cub, by Tambako, Zurich – Flickr CC 2.0


animal mother

Is the Momma Bear Really the Most Protective Animal Mother?

As the author N.K. Jemisin has said,

“There is no greater warrior than a mother protecting her child.”

While there are many characteristics that make up a good mother, protecting their young is a common quality that both the human and animal mother share. The mother bear has always been the quintessential example of a mother’s love, and this is mainly because of their fierce, protective nature. It is a widely accepted belief that the most dangerous place to be is between a mother bear and her cub, but is this really a well-established fact or just an exaggerated myth? I’m not sure that I would want to be the one to test this theory.

Species of Bears and their Location

There are eight different species of bears; the two most common include the American black bear (Ursus americanus) and the brown bear or grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), according to BearSmart. Both of these species can be found in North America. The American black bear’s territory extends throughout the United States and Canada. The brown bear is located in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Canada. The more common of the two is the American black bear, with a population of approximately 900,000 in North America.

Black Bears and their Cubs

Black bears are solitary creatures that only come together during mating season. Mating season begins in June, but the actual implantation of the embryo is delayed until October. If the mother bear does not put on sufficient weight during this time, the embryo will not attach to the uterine wall. The typical gestational period is 220 days, and black bears usually have a litter of three or four cubs. The mother bear gives birth in the den during hibernation, and she tends to her young for a year and a half, until her next estrous cycle begins. According to, as soon as she is ready to mate, she will immediately start pushing the cubs off on their own, chasing away the startled cubs if they try to return. This seems cruel, but it may be a way to protect the cubs from being attacked by male bears that are interested in mating.

Are Black Bears the Most Protective Animal Mother?

Black bears may be the most common in North America, but do they provide the best example of a protective animal mother? Much research has been done on this topic over the years, and biologist Stephen Herrero summarized many of the results in his book, Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. In his book, Herrero discusses Al Erickson’s pioneer research of black bear mothers and cubs, which was done in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Erickson captured 96 black bear cubs, and found that the mother bears did not exhibit the strong maternal instinct that one would expect from an animal mother. Instead, the mother bears would often abandon their cubs during an impending threat.

Additional research was conducted by Lynn Rogers, which served to further corroborate Erickson’s results. Rogers found that out of the eighteen bear cubs that were captured in the presence of their mothers, none of their mothers attacked. Most of the time, the animal mother took cover and hid under tree brush. To date, there is no evidence of a black bear ever defending their cubs by killing an aggressor. Instead, mother bears are much more likely to run away or hide when faced with a possible human attack.

Grizzly Bears and their Cubs

The mating and reproduction cycle of a grizzly bear is very similar to that of the black bear. However, grizzly bears have a slower reproductive rate, and they only have one or two cubs at a time. The cubs stay with their mother for at least two years, and they may stay up to three or four years if the mother does not get pregnant during her next estrous cycle. When grizzly bears get pregnant, it triggers them to push their cubs away, just like black bear mothers.

Are Grizzly Bears a Protective Animal Mother?

Grizzly bears symbolize everything that is treasured about the great outdoors and wilderness life. They are admired for their fierceness and brute strength. These same qualities are what make the grizzly bear an extremely protective animal mother. While black bear mothers tend to abandon their young if someone is bothering them, grizzly bears are much more aggressive and will attack. According to, seventy percent of human deaths caused by grizzly bears are related to a mother grizzly bear protecting her cubs. Whereas all bears may not be the perfect example of a protective animal mother, grizzly bears definitely exhibit this trait.

Grizzly bears also display other characteristics that can be attributed to good mothers. While the cubs are with their mother, they learn many important life lessons. The cubs will sit and watch their mom as she hunts for food and catches fish. By watching their mother, the cubs learn skills that will allow them to survive on their own.

Not all momma bears are not the picture-perfect example that we have grown to believe in. It looks like humans are closer to the grizzly bear. Mother’s love is for them really all about protecting from and preparing for a harsh world, and lead by example.

Here you you will find more about the Wolf mother and her excellent motherly behavior.

animal mother
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs, by Denali National Park and Reserve CC BY 2.0