When you come to know the internal functioning of a wolf pack, it seems somewhat pretentious to think that only man can live in an ideal social structure. Leaving aside the gang-like connotations brought to mind by the term “pack”, in fact the wolf pack is a group uniting to safeguard each member. Each wolf, like a family member, recognizes his distinctive place in the pack.
Pack Leadership and Structure
A pack of wolves generally consists of a dominant (alpha) pair; an person or a couple following in significance and most probably replacing the present alphas (referred to as the beta pair); next in line are top ranked people, followed by one or more lower (omega) ranked wolves. The alpha pair commands the entire group, while the beta couple directs the mid-level wolves, and the mid-level and lower-level adults take over the remaining pack members. While the two ends of the pack hierarchy tend not to differ, the average rank is more socially dynamic, except in instances of injury or death. The wolf pups stay outside this complicated ranking scheme until the era of sexual maturity, while women play equally ranked men in second fiddle.
The dominant wolf, as is the case with a leader, displays an attitude and position to match his position – standing tall, holding elevated head and tail, and erect ears. The alpha also calls for significant privileges – such as the right to feast on prey in front of other pack members. Less dominant wolves will behave submissively towards the alpha; they will loosen the muzzle of their leader, often lower their bodies, and lower their heads, tails, and ears. But the omega wolf’s life is far more difficult. Their function is to behave as the “social glue”, giving light relief through encouraging play periods within the volatile pack, and calming others in moments of dispute. The omega often performs the scapegoat’s part, frequently tolerating the remaining pack’s absence of account. Usually they’re also the last to be permitted to feed.
The Lone Wolf Myth
There are often conflicts within the ranks, and sometimes a wolf is driven by his own accord from the pack or leaves – becoming a so-called solitary wolf. However, just as the old saying goes, there is power in numbers, although wolves can hunt alone, they are much more effective when jointly hunting as a team because they work together as one, smart unit to bring their prey down. Also, the pack is vital to give significance to the animals’ life. Like a family, the wolf pack is a social unit; and it is the absence of social affiliation and structure that the lone wolf endures, meaning that its lonely existence does not hold the charm that is often attributed to it. It’s a hard, lonely life and a steady struggle for survival. Hunting wolves in a pack can easily evoke fear and anxiety emotions. However, it is precisely this act of cooperation – working towards a common goal of self-preservation – as well as their complicated community structure, and the use of body language and howls to covey the pack’s laws that makes us pause and reflect on the size of their intelligence and the depth of their feelings.
Written by James Miranda
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