Wolves use body language to convey the rules of the pack. A wolf
pack is very organized. Rule number one says that the pack is made
up of leaders and followers. The pack leaders are the male parent
and the female parent - usually the father and mother of the other
pack members. They are likely to be the oldest, largest, strongest
and most intelligent wolves in the pack. They are known as the alpha
wolves and are usually the only members of the pack to produce pups.
Any wolf can become an alpha. However, to do so, it must find an
unoccupied territory and a member of the opposite sex with which
to mate. Or, more rarely, it moves into a pack with a missing alpha
and takes its place, or perhaps kills another alpha and usurps its
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The alpha male and female are dominant, or in charge of the pack.
To communicate dominance, the alphas carry their tails high and
stand tall. Less dominant wolves hold their tails down and often
lower their bodies while pawing at the higher ranking wolves. If
two wolves have a disagreement, they may show their teeth and growl
at each other. Both wolves try to look as fierce as they can. Usually
the less dominant wolf, the subordinate one, gives up before a fight
begins. To show that it accepts the other wolf's authority, one
wolf rolls over on its back. The dominant wolf stands over it. Following
the dominance rules usually keeps the wolves in a pack from fighting
among themselves and hurting each other.
Wolves convey much with their bodies. If they are angry, they may
stick their ears straight up and bare their teeth. A wolf who is
suspicious pulls its ears back and squints. Fear is often shown
by flattening the ears against the head. A wolf who wants to play
dances and bows playfully.
Wolves have a very good sense of smell, which they also use in
communication. Wolves mark their territories with urine and scats,
a behavior called scent-marking. When wolves from outside of the
pack smell these scents, they know that an area is already occupied.
Of course, their sense of smell also tells them when food or enemies
Wolves communicate with their voices. Wolves do not howl at the moon. They call any time of the
day, but they are most easily heard in the evening when the wind
dies down and wolves are most active. They howl to find other pack
members, to let wolves from outside of the pack know their territory
boundaries, or to get the pack excited and ready to hunt. Sometimes,
it seems as if they howl just for fun. Wolves also bark to warn
other pack members of danger or to challenge an enemy. They often
growl in dominance disputes or other kinds of fights. They make
a high whine or squeaking noise to call the pups. The pups' mother
whimpers to calm the young ones.
Wolves use three different languages:
- Sound - Howls, Barks, Whimpers and Growls.
- Special Scents - Including Scent Marking.
- Body Language - Body Positions and Movements