It is safe to say that we have all heard the term alpha wolf, or the word alpha that is usually associated with dogs, or wolves. The alphas are basically the strongest wolves of the pack that are often called the leader as well. They are far more superior than rest of the wolves in the pack, giving them the name alpha. This word has been used to such an extent that by now, it has been ingrained in our imagination, and on our mind. The important part that you need to know is that there is no such thing as an alpha wolf, at least not as far as the wolves in the wilderness are concerned.
This idea was first generated back in 1947 when the Expressions Studies on Wolves was published, and while the study was definitely groundbreaking, there was one major flaw that a lot of people did not bother reading. What was it? The study was conducted on wolves that were living in captivity, and not the wolves that were out in the wilderness, so that is where the discrepancy was found. I am not going to call the study flawed because under the condition, the study did prove itself to be correct, but as soon as you leave the captive environment and move into the wilderness, things change a lot.
Another interesting thing that we must know is that despite the study having a problem, it is important to know that wolves do show dominance in wolf packs even when they are out in the wild. So shunning the complete study invalid is definitely not the point here. At this point, it is safe to say that as the research on captive, and wild wolves continue, we, humans are able to develop a better, and more nuanced understanding of how the wolves behave. At the same time, the concept of “alpha wolf” is something that still exists, especially in the entertainment industry as it has managed to make up for some of the best stories that we have read in movies, books, and even shows, the same goes for werewolves. Still, it is important to know that the term alpha wolf still applies to some extent in the real world. In case you are wondering, dog training is what you should be looking at.
There is no denying that the ethology of canines happens to be an area that is full of richness, and diverseness. All of this thanks to researchers like Karen B. London as well as Alexandra Horowitz and their constant contributions; in addition to that, we also have Mech, whose book Wolves: Behaviour, Ecology, and Conversation happens to be one of the books when it comes to the expansion of our awareness on wild wolves.
Perhaps one day, the study of wolves will be complete, and we will be able to tell whether or not the concept of the alpha wolf applies to the ones in the wilderness.