Ultimate Guide On Animal Tattoos By Tattoo Designers
Animal tattoos have been around for thousands of years – and for a good reason.
They provide tremendous beauty and meaning, helping us relating with symbols we’ve known and loved all of our lives.
No matter if your looking for a family tattoo, strength tattoo, animal tattoos for men or women, there is an option for you among thousands of other cool animal tattoos.
Are you looking for a custom tattoo design featuring an animal?
Take a quick tour through our guide on best animal tattoos below along with meanings!
History of Animal Tattoos
For millennia, peoples around the world have tattooed human skin to communicate various ontological, psychosocial, and sociocultural concepts encompassing beauty, cultural identity, status and position, medicine, and supernatural protection.
A mummy from ancient Egypt was heavily tattooed with sacred symbols, which may have served to advertise and enhance the religious powers of the woman who received them more than 3,000 years ago.
The newly reported tattoos are the first on a mummy from dynastic Egypt to show actual objects, among them lotus blossoms on the mummy’s hips, cows on her arm and baboons on her neck.
Since then, tattooing didn’t exactly go through a silent period. Instead, it was transmitted through generations.
Inking got a mainstream revival in 19th century, where European socialites, royals, as well as the working class were getting tattooed.
And what kind of tattoos did they like?
The designs they chose were often similar to those liked by everyone else: oriental motifs, swallows, anchors, travel memories, flowers, animals or names.
But the tattoos of nobles and members of the upper class were harder to spot as they tended to hide their bodies.
It was much easier to spot a sailor’s than a banker’s tattoo, because the banker’s clothing made it much easier to hide their chosen designs.
A well known animal tattoo from this period is Tsar Nikolai’s dragon tattoo, which he got on a trip to Japan – where the world’s best tattoo artists at the time were from.
Animal Meanings & Symbols
Animal symbolism has had a long tradition in the arts world, and as such in the tattoo world, as well.
European artists have assigned meaning to animals both real and imagined since classical antiquity.
In the 12th century, medieval scholars formalized certain readings by publishing the Bestiary—an illustrated guide that offered both natural history and moral associations for a wide range of creatures.
Whether imaginary or real, animals have always been an integral ingredient of human storytelling.
Their personification in fables and morality tales is so common that we still accept them as symbols of human behavior.
Because many cultures through the ages have regarded specific animals as emblems of power and the supernatural, we frequently find their depictions in paintings, sculptures, prints, and decorative arts.
Jungle & Forest Animals
Jungle animals are the most exotic ones, with a great myth covering these wild and mostly non-domesticated beasts.
Animals from the jungles and forests instantly bring out the fear in us.
The meanings most of them have are strength, ferocity and speed.
Yet each one of these frightening beasts has a kind and compassionate side, commonly being pack-oriented, protective and loyal to their kind.
If there’s one tattoo to rule them all, it’s – you’ve guessed it right – it’s the lion tattoo.
Lion is one of the favorite symbols of leadership, warriors and emperors.
For that reason, many regents have been including it on their heraldry like flags, coats of arms, stamps, and similar to symbolize supreme strength.
In today’s world, the lion is often associated with fearlessness, ferociousness, protection, lion king, Zodiac sign and it’s qualities and the Judaic symbol Lion of Judah.
The lion has many valuable lessons to teach us and these lessons remain the symbols that they are associated with: self control, personal strength and courage and balance.
Find our full lion tattoo guide here.: https://tattoostylist.com/lion-tattoo-ideas/
The tiger tattoo enjoys a great popularity among tattoo lovers of all walks of life. It is a powerful symbol across Asia, as modern tigers are all descendants of tigers from Asia, but also in many cultures.
As a result, tigers have been a staple element of tattooing in many Asian countries, especially in India, Malaysia, Burma, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and Cambodia. Its ferocity and majestic appearance have given it important symbolic meaning in cultures throughout the continent.
The tiger symbol is associated with power, passion, ferocity and sensuality. In addition to these it represents beauty and speed, cruelty and wrath and its appearance in dream is usually a sign of new power or passion that has awakened within an individual.
Find more tiger tattoo ideas here: https://tattoostylist.com/tiger-tattoo-ideas/
The bear is a symbol for strength, courage and tenacity. In popular culture, they are connected with gentle friendship through teddy bears, and very docile follower. Its love for honey makes it even amusing, in all its majesty and symbolism of power and dignity.
Bear is an element of folklore and legends across the globe, from Asian mythology all the way to North American and European cultures. It is an inhabitant of these continents, which makes it a very early element known to man from these lands.
With their tremendous physical presence and charisma, they play a prominent role in the Arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies.
Find our full bear tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/bear-tattoo-ideas/
The wolf tattoo is not for those of light heart. This animal-inspired ink is for powerful, strong and intelligent people who know what they want and how they want it to look like.
Much like the lion and tiger tattoo, many guys love the wolf pack tattoo because of its deep meaning relating to family, loyalty and unity.
Positive meanings emphasize a deep connection with your intuition and instincts. On the negative side, the wolf could represent a perceived threat or a lack of trust in someone or your own feelings or actions.
Find our full wolf tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/wolf-tattoo-ideas/
Snake tattoos have have been a stable motif in the tattoo industry ever.
Snakes or serpents are believed to be one of the oldest symbols being used in mythology, religion, and art.
Even though they can hold somewhat bad connotations, they have many positive meanings in different cultures over the world.
Many symbolism related to snake being a symbol of rebirth, change, or even immortality, are drawn from the skin-shedding properties of the snake.
Likewise, their representation can range from zoomed-in realistic tattoos, all the way to gentle minimalist line work.
Find our full snake tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/snake-tattoo-ideas/
Domesticated Animals & Our Friends
Not all animals are terrifying, ferocious, and deadly! There are some animals that were bred to be our friends, who accompany us through life — including all its ups and downs!
Dogs are the first domesticated animal and man’s guide, protector and guide for 40 thousand years.
In modern day and age, dogs are now our best friends with best friend traits – loyal, trustworthy, brave, protective, devoted.
They teach us to be non-judgemental, how to love unconditionally and dedicate our lives to our loved ones.
Cats are one of the most beloved pets people have, but what do cats represent in our lives?
The cat is a symbol of various connotations.
It varies from occult aspects such as being linked to demons, witchcraft, darkness to very positive characteristics such as independence, liberty, spiritual enlightenment, intuition, balance, and hope.
Beasts Of Burden & The Hard Workers
Beside our house pets such as dogs and cats, the man has been accompanied closely by a lot more animals.
These domesticated animals of burden are usually not perceived as terrifying, ferocious, and deadly!
These are animals that were bred to be our friends, who accompany us through life — including all its ups and downs!
Elephant tattoo is an excellent choice for many people that want to use this magnificent animal to convey a message of community, memories, family, mercy, healing, and love.
Many who have been through a long and hard journey, and came out as strong fighters can identify with the elephant symbol.
Especially if your journey meant you taking care of your family or people in need (something elephant packs are known for), the elephant is an excellent symbol animal for you.
Furthermore, elephants are often associated with grief because they ritualistically mourn their dead. Having an Elephant tattoo can be one way to memorialize a profound loss.
Elephant teaches how to nourish the mind, body, and spirit, so you are strong during trying times.
Find our full elephant tattoo guide: https://tattoostylist.com/elephant-tattoo-ideas/
Due to its impressive presence and masculinity, the Bull has been an essential idol for many ancient cultures. The Bull symbolism is linked to fighting ability and male fertility ever since prehistoric times. It is also a necessary sign of abundance.
The Bull meaning is deeply related to solar energies, determination, strength, and, of course, virility. Bull symbols have been depicted since prehistoric times and can be found in ancient art, literature, astronomy, and astrology.
Birds Roaming The Sky
Birds have been a fascination of the man since the early times.
Their free roaming of the open skies, precision, wisdom and freedom are traits we try to manifest when getting a bird tattoo.
Depending if it is a bird of prey or a bird of peace, birds have a plethora of meanings and beautiful designs.
Raven tattoo is very common in all the tattoo styles for quite some time now. This black bird has been associated with many traits, characteristics and myths throughout history, so as a symbol it was able to provide prolific creative interpretations for each individual.
What raven means to you will be highly personal, but it will speak of you immensely as being intelligent, resourceful, adaptive and flexible.
If you are looking for raven tattoo ideas, feel free to jump to the exact raven tattoo designs below using the menu shortcuts.
Find our full guide on raven tattoos here: https://tattoostylist.com/raven-tattoo-ideas/
Eagle tattoo designs have been around since the beginning of modern tattooing in the mid 20th century.
However, as a symbol, eagles have been around for hundreds of years.
Known as the chief of all the winged creatures, an eagle is a symbol of power, freedom and of human association with the spiritual and divine.
These big birds of prey are most commonly seen in Eurasia, with certain species also reaching the Americas and Australia.
In many cultures across the globe, especially among the Native Americans, the eagle is seen as the king of all birds, and a mighty eagle spirit animal.
Find our full guide on eagle tattoos here: https://tattoostylist.com/eagle-tattoo-ideas/
Looking for a unique bird tattoo? Well, we say – the owl tattoo should be on top of your list.
Owl is a bird of prey that can be found on almost all continents and places around the world.
They are nocturnal beings and as such often connected to the supernatural, mystical and higher intelligence.
These nocturnal birds hold important meanings in cultures all over the world, from ancient Greece to modern day pop culture (Hedwiga, anybody?).
Find our full guide on owl tattoos here: https://tattoostylist.com/owl-tattoo-ideas/
Tiny Animals & Insects
For inspiration and guidance we can also turn to the small animals and insects that are all around us in our lives.
From beautiful butterflies, all the way through hummingbirds commonly used in memorial tattoos, to the ants and scorpions – these animals bear powerful meaning and can help us manifest positive meanings.
Getting a butterfly tattoo is not just a trendy, girly tattoo symbol. This beautiful insect symbolizes rebirth, change, and freedom.
Butterfly tattoo designs can feature everything from beautiful gossamer species to bold and colorful abstract designs.
The papillon has a plethora of meanings behind it, regarded as beautiful, delicate parts of nature.
The butterfly comes in many different shapes and sizes, which makes butterfly tattoo drawings easily personalized, allowing you to create a truly unique piece of ink.
Find our full butterfly tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/butterfly-tattoo-ideas/
Bee tattoo designs have been a staple in many tattoo shops and in portfolios of many artists around the world.
The reason for that is simple – bees have existed on every continent on our planet (well, almost – except Antarctica), which made them common occurances in the mythology and folklore of many cultures.
The symbolism of bee tattoos can be traced back to bee symbolism in art and culture – hard work, power, feminine energy, communication with the divine, as well as the relationship of the individual and the collective.
Find our full bee tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/bee-tattoo-ideas/
Spiders are featured in many legends, myths and folklores (into which we go into depth below), and they come in all shapes and sizes.
Arachnids can dangle from your ceiling or walk across your arm when you’re not looking.
Amazement or fear, it mostly depends on who you ask.
Regardless of your viewpoint, spider symbolism is one of effortless creation, weaving one’s destiny, flowing with the rivers of life, stepping into your personal power, and capturing opportunities that come your way.
Come with us on this journey around the world as we look into deep symbolism of spider tattoos!
Find our full spider tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/spider-tattoo-ideas
River & Sea Animals
Creatures living in water have long fascinated people, turning to them to see stories of perseverance, growth and ever-flowing energy.
From beautiful koi fish, all the way through whales and dolphins commonly used in family tattoos, to the shells and frogs – these animals have a plethora of meanings and can help us manifest positive messages.
Koi Fish Tattoo
From positive koi fish tattoo meanings all the way to beautiful and elegant tattoo designs, the koi carp has been a tattoo staple for years.
Koi fish have a beautiful appearance, vibrant colors as well as a depth in meaning, and as such are a prominent symbol of the oriental cultures of Japan and China.
There is a lot of koi fish symbolism, koi fish color meanings, as well as amazing koi fish tattoo design inspiration!
Find our full koi fish tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/koi-fish-tattoo-ideas/.
Mythical Animals & Beasts
The creatures of fantasy have long been a source of inspiration and reverence by all.
For this reason many like dragons have been used as symbols of royalty.
Through mythologies and lore tales we learn and grow close to these symbols of power, passion, wisdom, rebirth, lust and more.
Phoenix tattoo is not a common choice among the tattoo lovers, but it’s always the choice of people who have been through a lot in their lives and have come out stronger and wiser.
Phoenix bird appears in various cultures all over the world. It gets an important mention in traditions ranging from the ancient Greek all the way to Chinese legends.
Most narratives paint the Phoenix as a powerful bird of fire.
Find our full phoenix tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/phoenix-tattoo-ideas/
For all the tattoo lovers looking for a majestic, powerful and elegant symbol to use in their next ink, there are few other choices that can stand next to a dragon tattoo.
It’s no wonder, as the dragon has complex symbology, combining the visual representation of a serpent and a bird.
This powerful mythological monster has been around since the ancient ages.
In Christian traditions it is a symbol of evil. In the Orient it is a supernatural power, wise, strong and bringer of good luck.
Find our full dragon tattoo guide here: https://tattoostylist.com/dragon-tattoo-ideas/
Animal Tattoo Ideas
To help you with your research for your next tattoo design, below you will find our best animal tattoos from our tattoo guides.
Take a look below to check them out all:
Are you looking for a custom animal tattoo design? We got you.
Our expert tattoo artists will provide a quick initial draft to get you going.
Happy inking ❤
About the author
Milena has decided to start an organization that will create a safe environment for everybody to get their first, second or third tattoo and to encourage young people to transform their ideas into tattoos safely, with talent and vision.
You can find her writing about tattoos on Quora or updating our Pinterest profile with awesome tattoo ideas!