Paternal instinct can transform a Bumbling Dad into an Action Dad. If someone threatens his kids they will soon wish they'd never come within a mile of them. This is because fathers are expected to take care of their family and this naturally extends to keeping them safe. Such occasions serve as a way for a father to prove his worthiness. (See A Real Man Is a Killer). Expect his children to have a newfound respect for their father and for them to brag that My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad. If their relationship was previously strained expect it to improve.
Often Papa Wolf incidents serve as a way to reveal that a Non-Action Guy is really a Retired Badass or a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass (or even a Retired Monster). In contrast to an Overprotective Dad (who sometimes thinks he's this; there is no overlap between them), a Papa Wolf is always portrayed heroically because the latter is defending their kids from genuine threats instead of imagined ones.
A Team Dad may display a streak of this, but the Papa is more likely to be related to his children by blood or through formal adoption, and the children tend to be younger, which may be part of why the Papa Wolf is more oriented toward protecting them rather than training them to defend themselves. However even completely grown children can summon this response in the face of crisis because they are still his children no matter how old or strong they get.
Subtrope of Beware the Nice Ones. See also A Father to His Men and Family Man. Combining this with Disproportionate Retribution can lead to a Knight Templar Parent. If the guy is a teacher instead, he's a Badass Teacher. If the guy doing this is a sibling/cousin, you get Big Brother Instinct. Inversely, see Parents in Distress for the kids rescuing the dad. Evil characters can use this too; after all, Even Evil Has Loved Ones. A subtrope of the Papa Wolf is the Badass and Child Duo, where an adult male badass takes it upon himself to protect an orphaned, unrelated young child. See also Cub Cues Protective Parent for examples from the animal kingdom, which might include a literal wolf.
Remember when adding examples that this is a male only trope. The female equivalent is "Mama Bear" so all Distaff Counterparts should be placed there. When Mama Bear and Papa Wolf team up, it's a Battle Couple and all pairs should be placed there. Parents in Distress is the inversion, when Papa needs to be bailed out by the kids.
Also, note that this is not the trope for being protective of one's friends, unless of course it is something like an Intergenerational Friendship. In that case, it is okay. Otherwise, don't do it. Tropes about helping friends should go to A Friend in Need, The Power of Friendship etc.
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- Pop from Happy Tree Friends is usually really bad at being a father despite his good intentions, and actually gets his son killed more often than not. However, the few times he actually notices Cub is in danger, he will stop at nothing to save him. Feats achieved in this state include going over a waterfall in And The Kitchen Sink and successfully fending off a rabid dog in Doggone It.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor is very happy with the news that he has biological children. When he finds out what happened to them, though, Warp storms abound over perpetrators' heads.
- Homestar Runner: Strong Mad gets like this when his best friend, The Cheat, is physically abused.
- RWBY: Qrow is Yang's maternal uncle but he loves Yang's half-sister Ruby just as much as Yang. Nothing stands between him and his nieces: he rescues Yang and Ruby from a hoard of Grimm when they were young children and he spends Volume 4 secretly following Ruby's group through the wilds of Anima, killing any Grimm that get too close. He only reveals his presence when Ruby's group find themselves fighting the vastly superior Tyrian, charging in to protect Ruby from being seriously injured. When the fourteen-year old Oscar locates Qrow in Volume 5 to reveal he's Ozpin's new reincarnation, it means that Ozpin's vast abilities are limited by Oscar's young, untrained body. When Hazel tries to kill Oscar for being the new host of the man he blames for his sister's death, Qrow's Undying Loyalty to Ozpin combines with his instinct for protecting children; he throws himself in harm's way over and over again to prevent Oscar's death, only stopping once he's too badly injured to fight any more.
- Wash in Red vs. Blue becomes fiercely protective of the Reds and Blues. He pulls a gun on Carolina when the latter threatened to shoot Tucker. He went out of his way to rescue Donut from an attacking Tex robot, perhaps as a way to make up for shooting Donut earlier. He performed a Heroic Sacrifice, ordering Freckles to collapse a cave to give Tucker, Caboose, Simmons and Grif enough time to escape despite knowing he will be trapped on the other side with the attacking Feds. He stepped in front of Sarge, Donut and Lopez when Locus appeared, readying his gun.
- Dreamscape: Liz is fiercely protective of Dylan, and will dish out a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to anyone who harms him.