Mother Knows Best?

What makes the best mother? Is it a mother who is completely dedicated to her children and will defend them at all costs or one who is supportive, letting their children make their own decisions, even if they are mistakes?  The answer is not easy because there are all types of good mothers that share a mix of these qualities.  Unfortunately the answer is even harder when talking about the animal kingdom. For many animal mothers, rearing offspring can seem to be more about keeping the species strong, then being what a human would consider a good mother.

This brings me to the subject of bad mothering.  How can we determine what makes an animal a good parent if their unusual actions helps makes them a successful species. Acts that may seem atrocious to humans like infanticide or the mistreatment of unsuccessful offspring may be what makes their species successful.

None the less, as humans, we still consider their mothering practices as offensive. Here is a list of some of the most offensive yet interesting mothers in the animal kingdom.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Everyone’s favorite classroom pet  is well known for eating their babies. First-time hamster mothers will eat their babies if they feel intimated by the babies or if the babies are undersized/ abnormal.  Hamster owners are advised not to touch a hamster’s litter for the first two weeks or the mother hamster will eat or ignore her babies

Dracula Ant

Dracula ants practice “non-destructive cannibalism”.  The queen and her workers chew holes into larvae in order to feed on the haemolyph for its nutritional value.  Larvae act not only a potential next generation but also as a food source.

Giant Panda

It is common for panda to give birth to twins even if they only have the resources to take care of one.  In the wild the mother panda will ignore her weaker offspring in favor of taking care of the stronger one. Another murderous habit pandas have is they have been know for rolling over in their sleep and accidently crushing their babies who are only a fraction of the size as their mothers.

Black Bear

Black bear motherly habits are kind of the opposite of the pandas.  Black bears usually have litters of 2-3 cubs but mother bears prefer to raise multiple cubs at a time for economic reason, it’s just as easy to raise more than one.  If a black bear has a litter of only one cub she will abandon it and wait for the next year to raise a larger family.

Burying Beetle

Burying beetles raise their young inside dead mouse carcasses. They then eat the mouse and regurgitate it back to their larvae. There is usually not enough mouse to go around so only the first larvae to get the mothers attention get fed. The mother then eats her larvae that don’t get proper nutrition from her.


Male horses have been known to kick and kill foals that are not their own. In order to protect her foal when a mother horse realizes she is pregnant, she will have sex with all the stallions in order to confuse them as to who is the father. If she is unable to achieve this it is possible for her to have a spontaneous abortion.

Cuckoo Bird

Instead of raising their own chicks cuckoo birds lay their eggs in the nests of other unsuspecting species. The cuckoo chick will usually hatch earlier then the other birds eggs, hogging all the food and attention.

House Sparrow

Male house sparrows tend to have multiple families. In order to get the father sparrow to bring all his attention to her chicks mother sparrows have been known to kill the chicks of competing mothers.


When a pride of lions gets a new dominant male he will kill all lions under the age of two and chase off any other competition. Lionesses, unable to anything about it, go into heat.

Galapagos Shark

A mother Galapagos shark will eat anything she comes upon while looking for food, even if it is her own offspring.

Hamster Mom via Shutterstock

Pandas via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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