Why the seahorse?
By Jack O’Sullivan of Fathers Direct
Why does a father’s organisation choose the seahorse as its emblem? Could it be because seahorse ashes rubbed into the head are said to cure baldness? Or because seahorses have been credited with curing infertility? Or maybe it is because seahorses are said to be an aphrodisiac and to be used by ladies “to increase their milk”.
In fact, none explain our decision. We have chosen the seahorse because they are great dads. So good that they don’t just go to the ante-natal classes and practice breathing exercises while sitting on a bucket. They actually get pregnant, a step further, it should be said, than the ambitions of even the most enthusiastic dads in Fathers Direct.
“The female deposits eggs in the male’s abdominal pouch – where they are fertilised – and then provides no further care,” reports the learned journal Natural History. “Males protect, aerate, osmoregulate and nourish the developing embryos for several weeks before releasing them as independent young. Labour can last many hours or even days, and the male is ready to re-mate almost immediately after the young have emerged.” Phew, what a man! Not even a mention of epidurals.
They produce an extraordinary number of young – more than a thousand from a single male seahorse may fill just half a tablespoon. The young rise to the surface to gulp air and swim off independently.
The Daily Mail would approve of seahorses. They stick together, sometimes for life. Yet they aren’t boring. When the sap rises, the male turns orange and the female goes bright pink. Courtship is positively tantric, lasting three days. Once together, seahorses mate again and again.
So the seahorse is OK. As a dad, he’s brilliant for challenging gender stereotypes. But the best reason why we think seahorses are a great symbol for fatherhood is that children love them.