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History and Meaning of Animal Tattoos

Since the dawn of time, man has attributed certain animal characteristics to himself. Even the images of gods have been characterized in animal forms and spirits. From Egyptian gods with their jackal heads to Native American totems, animals have always been linked to the spiritual world.


They have captured the imagination of Europeans who brought stories about werewolves and human hybrids to life. Animal symbols across the globe are comprised of a huge of collection of designs, and all of them are steeped in myth and religion. A prime example of how animals are revered for their almost magical powers can be clearly seen in tribesman. Both Native Americans and Australian Aborigines have their own unique guardian spirit in the form of an animal, not quite unlike the more accepted notion of guardian angels.

Ancient Japanese on the other hand, believed that you can acquire the characteristics of the animal by carrying its symbol on your skin. So there you have it; what better way to bring out the animal in you than getting an animal tattoo?

White Tiger Tattoo

Meaning of Animal Tattoos

Every animal imaginable has its own spiritual connotation to it, and takes on a different meaning for different cultures. Many people choose to get animal tattoos to express a belief or personality trait, so choose yours carefully. Because the list of animal tattoos is far too extensive to cover in detail, we only take a look at the most popular across different cultures.

  • The Japanese Crane

In Japan, the crane has a long standing history of being considered as wise, fortuneous and loyal. The crane is also synonymous with longevity and fidelity. When the crane is depicted along with the sun, it signifies social standing and ambition.

  • Koi Fish

The Koi is another popular Asian design that broke into the Western world. They represent the human struggle as they swim upstream, but in the same breath are also considered to be very lucky.

  • Bats

Bats are typically associated with everything that goes bump in the night; ghosts, ghouls, witchcraft and death. However, many parts of the world including Africa believe that bats bring happiness and good fortune, while the Greeks see it as a sign of being articulate.

  • Bears

As you might have guessed, bears are known for their strength and courage. They are also seen as gentle giants who make excellent friends and companions.

Tribal snake tattoo


  • Snakes

Snakes are very popular and can take on different meanings, but they are commonly associated with healing and power. When a snake is depicted as eating its own tail, it represents your own rebirth.

  • Wolves

Wolf tattoos are predominant in Native American art. It is revered and honoured as a sacred creature. They represent power, intelligence and honour and are a force to be reckoned with on the hunting grounds.

Other very popular selections include tigers, horses, dolphins, spiders, dragons and even house pets. Whatever your preference, and whatever meaning you are trying to carry across, an animal tattoo will have something to offer. 

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