Do you think of yourself as a big dog? The top lad? The alpha wolf? If you do, you might be using a term that actually has no relevance at all in the wild.
The term was first coined in a paper by Rudolph Schenkel, an animal behaviourist who observed wolves during the 1940s. Having watched a pack in detail, he observed that there was a dominant male and female in the pack; two wolves who were respected above the others in the pack, and who were exempt from any kind of internal pack aggression that some of the other wolves in the pack had with each other.
The term was then firmly thrust into popular culture by a book published in 1970 by David Mech—it was a bestselling hit and cemented the term into common usage. It became common knowledge that there was a wolf in every pack who had fought his way to the top to then dominate the other wolves in the pack.
The issue was that neither biologist had followed the packs for long enough in the wild. When they did, what they found was that the relationship was far more mundane—there was no alpha wolf or alpha bitch; there were simply parents and their children. Each pack was essentially just a family; a father and a mother wolf leading their cubs. Cubs would grow to a certain age, and then when confident, they would break away from the group, find a mate, and then set up their own pack.
David Mech has spent years trying to get people to stop reading his initial work—he has told people repeatedly that the work is wrong, and that a different hierarchal order exists, but unfortunately, his initial work was just too popular, and there seems to be no getting rid of the term.
Biologists should consider how animal research in the wild should be undertaken, and how animal behaviourists go about creating identities for animals. Students studying HSPS and Geography can consider Donald Trump Jnr’s quotes about how his father was “just an alpha male [when grabbing a woman]” and how terms are lodged into the public conscience and the effect that they have.
- Medicine, Maths, and Economics Puzzles We asked three of our top Medicine, Maths, and... Read more >
- LNAT ‘So you want to go to Oxbridge’ Answers If you have been reading our book ‘So you want... Read more >
- Pooling: Fast Facts You may have heard people talk about “pooling”, or maybe... Read more >
- MLAT mini mock paper & answers The MLAT or Modern Languages Test is required by Oxford... Read more >
- University Admissions Tests: How Would You Reply? Here we have a few questions and answers to sample... Read more >
- Download a Physics Personal Statement “Over the past few years I have become gradually more... Read more >
- Cambridge Language Test mini mock paper & answers Many Cambridge colleges require applicants for Modern Languages to sit... Read more >
- Oxbridge Open Day Guide With open days drawing ever nearer, applicants and parents alike... Read more >
- Social and Political Sciences Reading List We’ve brought together a wide-ranging bibliography to help those applying... Read more >
- Bursaries Both Oxford and Cambridge are committed to the principle that... Read more >
- What’s so special about Oxford and Cambridge? Both Oxford and Cambridge have fearsome reputations. The Oxbridge system... Read more >
- Music Scholarships There is a wide range of musical scholarships available to... Read more >
- UCAT mini mock paper & answers If you are applying for Medicine or Dentistry, many of... Read more >
- COPA & International Deadlines Most deadlines are the same for all those applying to... Read more >
- June’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Your free E-book… “So You Want To Go To Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana…” If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, there are... Read more >
- Maths Puzzle: The Age of Census A census-taker knocks on a door, and asks the woman... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >
- History Reading Lists The main challenge in the step up from school to... Read more >
- HAT overview If you’re applying for History, or its joint schools, you... Read more >
- Cambridge’s Supplementary Application Questionnaire After you have submitted your UCAS application to apply to... Read more >
- BMAT mini mock paper & answers With over 90% of applicants now preparing for the admissions... Read more >
- Choosing The Right A-Levels Picking subjects at A level can be a difficult decision... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge International Grade Requirements If you’re applying to Cambridge or Oxford but you’ve not... Read more >