These female animals show leadership during conflict, travel and foraging! 

Six Mammals That are Female-Led

There is a lot more in common between a bonobo, African forest elephant and orca than just being mammals. Do you know what they have in common? If you said they are female-led, then you’re correct! 

Research has discovered that there are 5,000 known species of animals that are driven by females.

What are the traits of female leadership in animals? 

In the animal kingdom, these female animals show leadership during conflict, travel and foraging. Researchers, Jennifer Smith and her colleagues, at the Mills College in California identified that these female animal leaders have one or more of these traits

  • Stronger than males

  • Live the longest 

  • Live the most in one area

  • Form bonds with other females.

Check out these six land and sea mammals that are female-led! 


Two of the closest animal relatives to humans are the chimps and bonobos. Not only do these two primates contrast in appearance, but also in leadership styles. Males lead the chimps while the bonobos are female-led. 

The bonobos are led by females who keep the peace between the male and female bonobos. These females usually team up together when they have to confront a male bonobo. 


Lemurs are natives to Madagascar and are also led by females. Just like the female bonobos, the female lemurs are the peacekeepers in their colonies. The female and male lemurs are the same size, which makes it easier for females to confront the males in one-on-ones. 


Orcas, also known as killer whales, live in matrilines that are led by the oldest female. These matrilines are close family units. An orcas offspring will stay with their mother all their life even when they have their own offspring. All the female orcas in their pod will protect each other’s young ones.

Spotted hyenas

The spotted hyenas live in groups with 80 hyenas which are called clans. These clans are female-led. For these animals, the females are larger and stronger than the males. When there is conflict or battles with other animals, the female spotted hyenas are at the front lines ready to fight. 


Lions live in communities that are called prides. These prides are made up of the female relatives, their offspring and two or three other unrelated males. 

The female lions stay where they were born and know the areas the best. The role of the lioness includes going out to hunt, protecting their cubs and defending their territories from other prides. 

African elephants

Elephants typically live in herds made up of females. However, the African forest elephant and African savannah elephant have matriarchs. The matriarch generally is the oldest and strongest female elephant in the herd. She teaches the younger female elephants how to take care of their young. The matriarch also leads the herd to water, food and protects them from danger. 

Protecting animal life is important, especially in protecting the African forest elephant and African savannah elephant! Helping keep the elephants safe in the wild and zoos are essential. You can help by donating to our African elephant research that is helping make more informed conservation changes. Donate today! 

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