Why Everything You Know About Wolf Packs Is Wrong
J Thoendell stashed this in Dogs
"The concept of the alpha wolf as a "top dog" ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots," Mech writes in the 1999 paper, "is particularly misleading."
Mech notes that earlier papers, such as M.W. Fox's "Socio-ecological implications of individual differences in wolf litters: a developmental and evolutionary perspective," published in Behaviour in 1971, examined the potential of individual cubs to become alphas, implying that the wolves would someday live in packs in which some would become alphas and others would be subordinate pack members.
However, Mech explains, his studies of wild wolves have found that wolves live in families: two parents along with their younger cubs. Wolves do not have an innate sense of rank; they are not born leaders or born followers. The "alphas" are simply what we would call in any other social group "parents." The offspring follow the parents as naturally as they would in any other species. No one has "won" a role as leader of the pack; the parents may assert dominance over the offspring by virtue of being the parents.