When biologists studied wolf packs they noticed that there were usually a male and female to whom the others deferred, they dubbed those dominant wolves to be the "alpha male and female". In zoos it wasn't uncommon for "lower ranking" wolves to fight
their alphas for dominance.
Fiction starring wolves, werewolves, or other social animals or beastmen seized upon this concept. What better way to show the brutality of nature than by having them fight to the death?
Often the alpha female is left out, making it almost always a male position.
In actuality alpha wolves just as often attain their status through intelligence or charisma, dominance battles are rarely fatal, and frequently the alphas are simply the parents of the rest of the pack. The bloody scenes in zoos were the result of several unrelated wolves being crammed together in a small space.
Anime and Manga
- Kiba in Wolf's Rain is essentially the alpha, though Tsume initially disputes his authority.
- In The Call of the Wild Buck first has to deal with the near-psychopathic lead dog of his sled team, killing and replacing him. In the end he joins a wolf pack by killing a couple of them, a mention that wolves with his markings were spotted in later years in the area suggests that he became the alpha male.
- The loup-garou pack in Blood and Chocolate determine who is the new alpha male and "queen bitch" via a battle royale known as "the Ordeal" following the death of one of the old pair. Vivian wins the female Ordeal almost by accident but refuses to take the position and mate with the new alpha male until after her human boyfriend shoots her
- Kitty Norville's pack was initially led by an insecure murderous rapist named Carl. But he eventually got torn apart by his own pack and Kitty and her husband Ben became the new alphas.
- In the Mercy Thompson novels, "Alpha" is the actual title used by the leaders of werewolf packs, with defined responsibilities and entitlements. An Alpha's status gives him (and it's Always Male) the ability to issue commands to pack subordinates that they cannot refuse to heed, an enhanced Healing Factor, and a few other powers that facilitate control and protection of his pack.
- In The Dresden Files the Alphas obviously chose their name with this in mind. Billy and Georgia Borden fill the actual roles.
- Many monster species in Monster Hunter have an "alpha male" variant that is bigger and tougher than its fellows.
- In Up, Muntz's lead dog is named Alpha, and all the other dogs (except for Dug) are named after other Greek letters in accordance to their rank. When Dug defeats Alpha, the others name him the new Alpha.
- The film Alpha and Omega, naturally. Features a rare example of an alpha female.