Among the 50 or so members of a chimpanzee community, one adult male is recognized as the
highest-ranking or "alpha" male. While several males may exercise dominance over other males, the alpha male is
dominant over all the members of the community, male and female. He attains his high-ranking position through intimidation,
strength, and intelligence, often exhibited in "dominance displays." Such a display often begins with spectacular charging,
during which a male hurls himself along the ground, sometimes upright, slapping his hands, stamping with his feet, dragging
branches, or hurling rocks.
SUCCESSION OF ALPHA MALES 1964-Mike defeats Goliath; 1971-Humphrey defeats Mike; 1972-Figan ends Humphrey's reign; 1982-Goblin
gains control as alpha male; 1990-Wilkie defeats Goblin; 1993-Freud defeats Wilkie.
Mike's rise to the number one or top-ranking position in the chimpanzee community
was both interesting and spectacular. In 1963 Mike had ranked almost bottom in the adult male dominance hierarchy.
He had been the last to gain access to bananas, and had been threatened and actually attacked by almost every other
adult male. At one time he even had appeared almost bald from losing so many handfuls of hair during aggressive
incidents with his fellow apes. One day at camp, all at once Mike calmly walked over to our tent and took hold of
an empty kerosene can by the handle. Then he picked up a second can and, walking upright, returned to the place
where he had been sitting. Armed with his two cans Mike stared toward the other males. After a few minutes he
began to rock from side to side. At first the movement was almost imperceptible, but Hugo and I were watching
him closely. Gradually, he rocked more vigorously, his hair slowly began to stand erect, and then, softly at first,
he started a series of pant-hoots. As he called, Mike got to his feet and suddenly he was off, charging toward the
group of males, hitting the two cans ahead of him. The cans, together with Mike's crescendo of hooting, made the most
appalling racket: no wonder the erstwhile peaceful males rushed out of the way. Mike and his cans vanished down a track,
and after a few moments there was silence. Some of the males reassembled and resumed their interrupted grooming session,
but the others stood around somewhat apprehensively. After a short interval that low-pitched hooting began again, followed
almost immediately by the appearance of the two rackety cans with Mike close behind them. Straight for the other males, he
charged, and once more they fled. This time, even before the group could reassemble, Mike set off again; but he made straight
for Goliath - and even he hastened out of his way like all the others. Then Mike stopped and sat, all his hair on end, breathing
hard. His eyes glared ahead and his lower lip was hanging slightly down so that the pink inside showed brightly and gave him a
wild appearance. Rodolf was the first of the males to approach Mike, uttering soft pant-grunts of submission, crouching low and
pressing his lips to Mike's thigh. Next he began to groom Mike, and two other males approached, pant-grunting, and also began to
groom him. Finally David Graybeard went over to Mike, laid one hand on his groin, and joined in the grooming. Only Goliath kept
away, slitting alone and staring toward Mike. It was obvious that Mike constituted a serious threat to Goliath's hitherto unchallenged supremacy.