200+ Wolf Tattoo Ideas With Meanings and History
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.
Wolf tattoo designs come in many different variations.
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.
Depending how you want your wolf tattoo to look like, you can choose from a howling, snarling or angry wolf tattoo ideas. You can also combine the wolf with mandalas, feathers, or put it up against a bear as another family animal.
For the gentler, more loving meaning, it’s also combined with birth flowers.
But first, let’s learn more about wolf meaning and history.
Every Tattoo Has A Story – Wolf Tattoo Meaning
Hostility towards wolves began when the man started keeping livestock. As predators, they were natural enemies of the early herdsmen.
Though wolves almost never attack humans, they prey on livestock, especially sheep. A wolf is not a brave hunter and attacks only the young and the sick in a herd.
Because of this, every effort was made to keep wolves away from the villages and urban areas.
The Wolf Nature: An Odd Creature
Still, wolves haunted the ancient imagination.
According to this article, throughout the Mediterranean and the Near East, they were regarded as the most bestial of creatures; the antithesis of the civilized and good.
As such, they were also seen as a metaphor for all that was least human in man, a mirror-image of humanity’s better nature. An obvious example of this is in the Princes Mononoke anime series, where her pet is a wolf.
It is then no surprise that anybody who was deemed unfit or has threatened to in any way ruin the ordered society and its accepted norms came to be portrayed as ‘wolf-like’: wolf-man, lone wolf, wolf-woman, she-wolf.
The traits associated with wolves usually are:
- voracious appetite,
- deceit and a lack of moral restraint.
The Wolf Pack: Survive mode
Wolves are known to depend on each other to survive, to place the interests of the wolf pack and their family before their own.
That is why they can be ferocious if a loved one is in harm’s way.
These animals are also known to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next and are said to have sacred territories.
The Wolf As A Spirit Animal
In the spirit animal kingdom, the wolf symbolizes:
- Sharp intelligence, deep connection with instincts
- Appetite for freedom
- Expression of strong instincts
- Feeling threatened, lack of trust in someone or in yourself
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.
Wolf Native American Symbolism: The “Wolf People”
Native American Indians perhaps had the greatest symbolism for wolves.
They modeled themselves after the wolf in hunting methods, cooperation and efficiency, valuing them as proud hunters, loyal friends and intelligent teachers.
They also thought of the Wolf as a spiritual pathfinder, which symbolized intelligence and leadership.
While every Native American tribe has their own unique customs and beliefs, one theme that is common to virtually all of them is the belief in the wolf as an extremely powerful being.
Native Americans view the wolf as a creator, a guide, and a brother or sister.
Some tribes believe that wolves howl at the moon because they are having a spiritual experience and are singing to the gods.
The “Wolf People”
According the organization Wolf Song Alaska, the Pawnee Indians have such a powerful kinship with wolves that their hand sign for “wolf” is the same as it is for “Pawnee.” Indeed, other local tribes called the Pawnee the “Wolf People.”
Both the Pawnee and the Blackfoot tribes viewed the appearance and disappearance of the (Wolf) star Sirius as a sign that wolves were traveling to and from the spirit world.
The Milky Way itself was the path they took, which the tribes referred to as the “Wolf Road.”
The Pawnee believe the wolf was the first creature to experience death.
Celtic Wolf: A Symbol of Freedom, Helper, Guide
In medieval Celtic mythology (and tattoos, too!) wolves play a number of important role, this time in a positive light – many roles being the helping ones, or even people shapeshifting in wolves and back to humans.
Similar to the Roman story of Romulus and Remus, a future king was once again reared by a she-wolf: Cormac mac Airt grew up to become an important High King of Ireland.
In many Irish/Welsh myths, the wolf is usually a helper and a guide.
We also find myths of deities in wolf form, like the goddess Morrigana appearing in wolf form, but was defeated by the hero Cú Chulainn – the ‘Hound of Cuainn’.
There is also the old Gaelic/Irish month faoilleach, which comes from faol or faol-chù, “wolf”, i.e. the “Month of the Wolf” – February, a period in which wolves may be more present.
Wolf Christianity Symbol: How is Wolf Seen In The Bible?
The Bible contains 13 references to wolves, usually as metaphors for greed and destructiveness.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
– Saint Matthew, 7: 15
– Acts, 20: 29
A more positive Christian view of the wolf appears in the story of St. Francis of Assisi.
The so called wolf-lore remembers Francis as known for defending a lone wolf against the people of Gubbio in Italy.
Based on the tale, the hungry wolf had attacked and eaten some of the livestock of the people of the village. Even though this would usually trigger a widespread hunt and counter attack on the wolf, Francis asks the people to go against that instinct.
Francis encouraged the people to show mercy and charity, and they followed his lead in feeding the wolf, so that all might live more harmoniously.
Wolves In Tales and Literature
Today we still associate wolves with negative qualities, among them the darkness of the mythical Werewolves (the story of Lycaon the King and Zeus).
How our ancestors perceived wolves has then translated into many works of folklore, legends, but also stories written by authors like Aesop and the Brothers Grimm.
Following that portrayal, Aesop’s fables show wolves as being evil and dangerous, such as in the story of “The boy who cried Wolf” and “The Wolf in sheep clothing“.
The Brothers Grimm story of “Little Red Riding Hood” also portrays the Wolf as ferocious and intimidating.
Rome has one of the best known Wolf-founding legends. As the legend goes, Romulus and Remus the two founding brothers of Rome, were raised and suckled by a she-wolf.
Best Wolf Tattoo Placements
When it comes to wolf tattoos, there are many ways to go about it – from a small wolf hand tattoo to big wolf sleeve tattoo scenes.
A medium tattoo option would definitely be a wolf forearm tattoo, which gives enough room for a story telling tattoo with a lot of meaning, but also can be covered easily. Many choose to get a geometric wolf tattoo then there.
You can also go for a more feminine and gentle style tattoo, which many women opt for.
There are also many people, especially men, sporting on themselves a wolf hand tattoo. This is a bold option for everybody who wants to openly and freely tell who they are to the world.
With a wolf leg tattoo or a wolf chest tattoo you can go in between a huge and small scene, sometimes in watercolor, giving you enough canvas to include many other elements beside your wolf to tell a bigger story.
Wolf Tattoo Ideas
To help you with your research for your next tattoo design, we went on a hunt through Instagram to find the best wolf tattoo ideas.
Take a look below to check them out all:
Wolf Head Tattoo
Geometric Wolf Tattoo
Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing Tattoo
Celtic Wolf Tattoo
Wolf Paw Tattoo
Wolf Skull Tattoo
Wolf Pack Tattoo
Small Wolf Tattoo
Wolf Moon Tattoo
Watercolor Wolf Tattoo
Wolf Headdress Tattoo
Are you looking for a custom wolf 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!