10 Animal Societies That Are Matriarchal

By Antonia Čirjak on February 17 2020 in Society

  • Many animal species live in matriarchal societies, meaning that they are lead by females.
  • The honey bees and ants have a very similar way of living in colonies, with the female queen being the supreme ruler with the most important tasks.
  • Lions, despite being called the kings of the jungle, are led by females who go hunting while the males guard their homes.

Matriarchy is defined as a social system in which females hold the primary positions of power. In the animal kingdom, several species can be considered a matriarchy. Females are known to hold higher hierarchical positions and status among animals such as lions, hyenas, and bonobos. Another fascinating example is the herds of European bison. Although the females are smaller than the males, they hold higher positions in the social hierarchy of the herd. There are multiple other animals that we can say live in matriarchal communities, and this article will deal with some of them.

10. Lemurs

Lemurs are also known to live in troops that are led by a matriarch. This female leader decides when the group will eat, sleep, and travel. The right to rule is passed down the matriline, so all of the females are dominant to the male members of the group. Female lemurs are mostly larger than males, and they pick their mating partners by themselves. The females are also the first ones to engage in conflict with other groups. 

9. Ants

Interestingly, ants also live in colonies led by a queen. They are organized similarly to bees, meaning that the queen's tasks include mating and breeding to make the colony larger. Other ants are required to do the rest of the work in the colony. 

8. Meerkats

Meerkats live in the Kalahari desert and are small carnivores of the mongoose family. They live in underground burrows in small groups made up of several families. Those groups are called mobs. A dominant female is the leader of every group, and she is tasked with finding new burrows and handling arguments with other mobs of meerkats.

7. Mole Rats

Mole rat female leaders are often referred to as the "mole-rat queens," and they lead entire colonies that can be made up of up to 300 members. The queens are dominant when searching for their sexual partners as well; they pick the strongest and largest males and mate with them multiple times per year. The female mole rats can deliver seven offspring every two months.

6. Spotted Hyenas

The female spotted hyenas are the dominant ones in their social groups. They are usually more aggressive and much larger than males. The genitals of the female hyenas resemble the male ones, so it is not very easy to differentiate between them. The groups of hyenas led by the females are quite large, often having up to 60 members. 

5. Lions

It would be hard to forget the kings of the jungle, but seeing as how they live in matriarchies, maybe we should call them the queens of the jungle. In any case, lions live in groups of the varying size called prides. Prides mostly consist of multiple females that are related, along with their offspring.

They are then joined by a small number of males that have no relation to them. Prides can have anywhere from 15 to 40 members. Female lions are the designated hunters, and the male lions stay at home and watch the remainder of the pride. Once the females return with the food, the male lions are the first to eat.

4. Bonobos

Bonobos are great apes that can be found in Congo. They live in groups under the leadership of females. It is often said that they are the most peaceful primates and that they settle their differences and solve conflicts through sex.

3. Elephants

The societies that elephants live in are marked by complex relations that are guided by matriarchal principles. The oldest female elephant is considered the matriarch that rules the entire herd. She is often also the biggest elephant in the herd, which can contain anywhere from eight to one hundred elephants.

2. Killer Whales

Killer Whales are also known under the name Orcas, and they are known to live in a matriarchal society. The offspring lives with the mother for its entire life, even after getting its own offspring. Killer whales travel together in multiple-family units that are known as matrilines.

1. Honey Bees

In the hive of the honey bees, the female queen runs the show. She is the ultimate ruler of the hive. She is much larger than the other bees, and she lives far longer than them as well. Her main function is a reproduction, and drone bees normally just die after mating with the queen. That makes her seem even more dominating.

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