The Social Rankings of the Wolf Pack

The Social Rankings of the Wolf Pack

By: Kelly Marshall
Sept. 2008
It is believed that members of the pack selflessly subordinate their own interests to the greater interests of the pack, but this is really not a clear description of the evolutionary forces or causes at work. In wolf packs of the group establish their own social rankings. The top male and top female irately disrupts any attempts by their inferiors to breed. These rankings are usually stable for a long time, and when this is the case the lower-ranking animals often give way to their superiors without a brawl. The alpha male is greeted with toadying or fawning, even puppy-like, passive gestures of licking the face; if an inferior ranking male is confronted by the alpha, he will roll over on his stomach and submit. Every member of the group, both male and female, participate in the care and rearing of the young, throwing up food for the puppies and being concerned for them.

Why do inferior animals put up with this? The true answer is that it is just an expedient. The group would explode in constant violence, and quickly disintegrate, if the pack did not agree to the demands of the most confident members among them. If all that inferior wolves got in the bargain was room and board and the chance to play baby sitter for someone else’s kids so-to-speak, evolutionary logic would bristle at the arrangement. All wolves are progeny of alpha wolves. The nature for submission must serve some purpose that assists a wolf in not only eating but also in reproduction. For how else would the nature for submission ever be passed on to the next generation? The evolutionary calculus, then, is not that inferior wolves are naturally peaceful, selfless caretakers; they are simply biding their time. Subordination is a way to avoid getting slayed or killed by a larger or more experienced member of the group while waiting for one’s turn to challenge him.

It is a great strategy to play the fawning courtier until one is tough enough to overthrow the king. It is a bad strategy to be obnoxious or aggressive to the king before the moment to strike has come. The acceptance of social rank is a way to deter constant fighting, and it is something that is instilled in every wolf, and dog. Wolves know what social rank is, and they accept it, and it is the source of long periods of strength in wolf society. Domineering and subordinate wolves go months at a time enjoying friendly relations, with no obvious righting, and some obvious signs of aggression. Inferior animals have an endless capacity to turn aside incipient aggression by their superiors by surrendering to their will and temporarily holding back their own self-interested drives. It is not by chance that wolves became house pets but raccoons haven’t.

To learn more about your dog’s ancestors, contact the local chapter of the Humane Society and seek help searching through dog reference books at your nearest public library. There are plenty of books and articles about the social rankings of the wolf pack: understanding of your dog’s ancestors.

About the Author: Article written by Kelly Marshall from Oh My Dog Supplies – visit for dog food storage containers in every size.

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