Alpha wolves don't exist

The alpha wolf doesn’t exist. It’s a myth based on a 1947 study of captive wolves from different families.

In the wild a wolf pack is made of a mother, father, and their juvenile pups less than 3 years old1. If you put an outsider wolf into this family, the outsider realizes he doesn’t belong and tries to escape. But he can’t because he’s confined, so there’s a continuous fight for dominance.

[It] is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps.2

L. David Mech, Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs

This myth was published and promoted in our culture for decades. Fortunately science is self-correcting. In 1999 a former proponent of the alpha wolf theory, L. David Mech, issued a correction. Scientists occasionally have to say Oops and they issue a correction, and not on the back page of the newspaper. They stand at a podium in front of hundreds of their peers and say I was wrong, and this is how and why it happened. When was the last time a politician or theologian had the courage to do that?


  1. Some wolf packs have 2 or 3 families. 

  2. Mech, L. David. “Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs.” Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77:1196-1203, 1999.