The nature of dominance in relationships among male Apodemus sylvaticus was investigated using multivariate analysis and by experimental manipulation of the behaviour of dominants. The behaviour of dominant mice was typified by greater frequencies and durations of exploration, approach and pursuit of subordinates in short encounters in a small arena. The direction of encounters normally remained constant over 48 h.
When the dominant mouse in a dyad was deprived of food there was a change in its behaviour and an immediate change in the behaviour of the subordinate. Subordinates showed greater interest in starving, though known, dominants, explored more freely and indulged more in pursuit than control subordinate mice i. e. those matched with dominants on an adequate diet. Results suggest that in A. sylvaticus, dominance is associated with the inhibition of the activity of a subordinate and the relationship is maintained by the behaviour of the dominant rather than the deference of the subordinate.