Wolf Pack Hierarchy
Almost all wolves live in family groups called "packs", which usually contain 6-15 wolves. Most packs in the wild typically consist of the alpha pair and their offspring. Dominance in wolf packs is very crucial to wolves, and can be shown in body language, dominant wolves' tails and heads are often held high to show dominance, versus juvenile wolves or other less dominant wolves go into submission postures, their tail tucked in between their back legs, their head held low, their ears held back, and often they crouch near the ground.
Dominance in wolves typically is determined through strength and skill. Wolf pups often playfight not only to sharpen pack skills, but to determine dominance. A dominant pup may not always remain so, another pup may take its place if it qualifies as they grow, so dominance changes during young ages in wolves. When wolves become adults, they often have another "play-fight" to determine who is dominant, and their rank usually remains that way, unless another wolf, like stated before, qualifies to take its place. The weaker, more timid wolves often become omega wolves, the low ranking wolves.
Wolf packs have an elaborate hierarchy.1) Alpha wolves- Alpha wolves are the most dominant of all-they are the leaders of the pack. (Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet) They often have their tails, ears, and head held high to show their dominance. Alpha wolves make most of the decisions in the pack. These wolves are usually the only ones to mate and produce offspring, but there are a few exceptions. (see Mating in General page)
2) Subordinate wolves- These would include the other wolves in the pack who are subservient to alpha wolves, or the regular "packers", and usually, the highest ranking among these wolves would be the beta wolf.
3) Omega wolves- These wolves sometimes are considered to be a subordinate wolf, but in that category, they would be the lowest ranking. Omega wolves are the lowest ranking wolves in the pack-besides juvenile wolves, who are not mature enough to consist of a rank. These wolves have the least privileges of making decisions, and often eat last. Omega wolves are almost always pushed into submission, and they are a target for any abuse within a pack. These wolves are least likely to have the privilege to mate. Omega wolves are usually the weakest or least skilled wolves in the pack.
4) Juvenile wolves- These wolves are immature wolves-they are too young to receive a rank- they are wolves that usually under a year to two of age. The pups sometimes are watched by less dominant wolves or other older juvenile wolves. As these wolves reach maturity, they determine dominance within each other, and receive their rank.