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What Is an Alpha Male?

In the human species, there is always a “leader of the pack,” and that leader is called the alpha male. In groups of animals that share a territory (and often hunt together) it is common for the group to choose an alpha male. This creature is the recognized authority, allowed to take first pick from a kill, and is shown clear deference from the other members of the pack. The position is usually acquired by battling it out with other males in shows of strength and/or virility. The alpha position is also often challenged by younger males, and must be defended. Some animal behavior experts observe that an alpha male can even stage fights in order to prove to others that he is still “the top dog.” Examples of animals that have alpha males are wild wolves and domesticated dogs.

The term alpha male is also used to describe human behavior, but in the context of dating (and mating). It refers to someone who is very successful, often affluent, handsome or charming. He is very confident around women and is considered “a desirable” catch. The term alpha male is sometimes stereotyped as a ladies man and can be used in a derogatory manner to mean arrogance.

In the peculiar human “herd” called high school, the alpha male is one of the cute guys, generally muscular, and holds a desirable “cool” position such as a member of a varsity team. The “beta” male on the other hand may possess desirable qualities and can be attractive but simply do not have that “awe” factor. They may be, for example, members of the chess team and typecast as a nerd.

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