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Female Wolf (Behavior, Rank & What They’re Called)

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Female wolves are also referred to as she-wolves or luna wolves. The alpha female often takes an active role of dominance in the pack and is the only one to breed (with the alpha male).

Female wolves have different roles in the wolf pack and may engage in different activities depending on the pack and their rank.

In some packs, the female alpha wolf takes an active leadership role, while they focus more on raising and caring for pups in others. 

In this article, we’ll talk more about the female wolf.

What Is a Female Wolf Called?

A female wolf is called a she-wolf or luna wolf, depending on their status and rank in the pack. Luna wolf is another term for the alpha female, the counterpart to the alpha male. She-wolf is usually used for all female wolves, from alphas to omegas.

female wolf solo

What Is a She-Wolf?

A female wolf is known as a she-wolf. She-wolves are the ones carrying pups (giving birth), as well as caring for them after birth.

She-wolves can have different ranks in the pack, from alpha to omega (respectively the highest and lowest rank).

The term she-wolf has no positive or negative meaning but is merely used to describe the gender of the wolf.

The main responsibility of she-wolves is reproduction. While it’s only the alpha couple who’ll mate, all-female wolves have the ability to do so. Female wolves are known to be very protective of their younglings.

She-wolves that are not alphas will typically either join in on the hunt, or they’ll help with caring for the wolf pups.

As female wolves, they can also hold more power than you might think. 

Female wolf packs tend to be matriarchal (led by a female), and some alpha females will attack other she-wolves in order to maintain control of the pack. 

wolf-hunting-in-the-forest

The Luna Wolf in Roman Mythology

The Luna Wolf has her part in Roman Mythology.

In the Roman myth about Luna Wolves, it was this kind of wolf that took in, protected, nursed, and sheltered the twins Romulus and Remus after they were abandoned in the wild, as was the order of King Amulius of Alba Longa. 

The Luna wolf cared for the children at her den, a cave known as the Lupercal. This was until they were discovered by Faustulus the shepherd.

In Greek mythology, Luna is the goddess of the moon. This may be why Luna wolves are another term for alpha females.

What Is a Luna Wolf?

Luna wolves are alpha female wolves. Similar to the alpha male, they are at the top of the pack hierarchy, having earned the respect of the rest of the pack.

The luna wolf typically won’t join hunting parties, as they have to take care of the pups. As these pups grow older, the alpha female will join in on hunting though.

The alpha male and female form the breeding pair. These are the two wolves of the pack that’ll mate and has pups.

Related: Luna Wolf

she wolf

What Does a Luna Wolf Do?

A luna wolf has a lot going on. She runs the pack alongside her male counterpart or alpha male. Her main responsibility is to reproduce though, being the one to breed.

Luna wolves have been known to run up to 30 miles per hour and are excellent hunters.

During the first weeks of wolf pups’ life, they feed on milk from the luna wolf. After this, they’ll feed on meat.

While the luna wolf stays back to take care of the pups, the alpha male will hunt for food. When he returns, greeting the female, she will “bow” to him, showing submission, whereafter the male will hand over the food. She will then eat herself, as well as feed the pups.

A female luna wolf is usually smaller than the male of her pack and not as large or muscular.

A female luna wolf is also in charge of teaching the pups how to hunt, but she will allow males to join her when necessary.

As the pups grow older, the alpha female will join in on hunting, while also helping the wolf pups to learn.

Related: Baby wolves facts

wolf pup alone

What’s the Difference Between a She-Wolf and a Luna Wolf?

She-wolves and luna wolves are both female wolves. The difference between them is their designation within the pack. The term “she-wolf” refers to any female wolf in the pack, while luna wolf refers to alpha females, who’ll reproduce.

The female of the species can be just as fierce, or even more so than their male counterparts depending on how they are raised in the pack. 

Female wolves will fight for dominance establishing themselves as alphas or betas.

Female Wolf Rank in the Pack

Female wolves, or she-wolves, can take on all roles in the pack:

  • Alpha female (Luna wolf)
  • Beta female
  • Mid-rank
  • Omega female

The rank in the pack often has to do with strength, as well as personal traits. Female wolves that are dominant and strong early on, will usually take the role of alpha. [1]

Timid wolves will often end up as omegas.

In the category of mid-ranking wolves, we find pups and old wolves.

Alpha Female

An alpha female wolf is the female dominant leader of a pack. While some packs are only led by males, others are led by females. In most packs, there’s one of each, as they make the breeding pair.

As stated, the alpha female is also known as a luna wolf, the one female who gives birth to pups.

If the alpha female of the pack dies, the alpha male will find himself a new mate. This will be the new alpha female, who’ll take over the responsibilities that comes with the rank.

When mating season occurs, the female alpha will tend to be more aggressive, as she displays her dominance. She’ll establish her role as alpha, to show that she’s the one who shall give birth to new pups.

The alphas of the pack decide who feeds first.

arctic-wolves eating

Beta Female

Strong female wolves, that don’t quite make it to alpha, will become beta females. This is the position directly beneath alpha, the “second-in-charge”.

Whenever the alpha wolves aren’t present, the beta wolves will step in, keeping the rest of the pack in line.

As there’s somewhat of a separate hierarchy for male and female wolves, there will most often be both a male and female beta, ready to step in if the alpha is injured or out of play otherwise.

Related: The beta wolf & its role

two-wolves-in-the-snow

Omega Female

Omega female wolves are the lowest ranking female in a wolf pack. Omegas eat last and usually run on the outskirts of the pack.

Omega wolves also work as stress-relievers for the rest of the pack. When other wolves are stressed or aggressive, they’ll let it out on omegas.

As with the other ranks, there can be both a male and female equivalent to the omega rank. They won’t have any authority or dominance and will display submission to the rest of the pack.

Related: The Omega Wolf

lone wolf in the forest as omega wolf

Female Wolf Behavior

The role of the female in a wolf pack can vary depending on their status within the pack and the pack itself. As their role shifts, so does their behavior.

Females are typically submissive to males, but female wolves with pups will defend them fiercely and act very dominant.

They are aggressively protective about their pups.

Similarly, females can be dominant if they have no children or by choice decide not to breed for various reasons (recent research suggests female wolves may be more selective about mates than males).

Asserting Dominance

Female wolves are often seen as the dominant female of their pack. They take on this role in order to protect all members, including her own cubs. 

The alpha female will suppress other females of the pack. This is believed to be done, in order to ensure that she’s the only one who breeds during mating season. [2]

In some instances, females have shown to be more aggressive than males, asserting their dominance. [3]

alpha wolf against omega wolf

She-wolves will fight for power and control over other females within the pack by asserting dominance through body language or physical contact. 

The goal is to gain respect from other females. Females will mark their female dominance by urinating on trees and other females within the pack.

However, even though alpha females are considered dominant members of a wolf pack they still have to prove themselves. They do this through physical acts or displays of strength from time to time in order to maintain this role. 

When a female loses their mate, they’ll tend to be more submissive, being replaced why another female.

Finding a Mate

The female wolf initiates the mating process. She will choose who she wants to be with. It is up to the male wolves in her pack (or outside of her pack) to court her, depending on whether or not they want to pursue her. 

If multiple males are interested in one female, there may be some fighting between them. Females are choosy when they are looking for a mate, and they may take their time.

How Long Are Wolves Pregnant?

Wolves can be pregnant between 60 to 75 days. Females that are pregnant tend to be more aggressive and territorial than female wolves that are not pregnant.

Alpha females may not breed every season. They may choose not to.

A study shows that female wolves are typically between the age of 2 and 7 years old when giving birth. [4]

This study also suggests, that only 33% to 58% of breeding females breed every year.

Conclusion

Female wolves have several different roles in the pack. The female wolf can be dominant, the alpha female (also called luna wolf), beta female, or omega female. The alpha female is the only one to reproduce, and she does so with her mate, the alpha male.

A female wolf can be called both she-wolf or luna wolf, depending on its rank. A luna wolf is an alpha female, who’s established herself as the highest-ranking female.

She-wolves is a general term to describe all kinds of female wolves.

Female wolves play important social and political roles among their kind; they help maintain order in the pack. 

However, female wolves are not just female versions of male wolves, they have many interesting characteristics that separate them from the males and other females in their packs.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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