Top 39 Animal Tattoo Designs With Meanings

Let the magnificence and majesty of a beautiful animal ink express your personality.

Reviewed by Jingxi Gu, Licensed Tattoo Artist Jingxi Gu Jingxi GuLicensed Tattoo Artist insta_icon
Written by , BE Jyotsana Rao BE linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Subhrojyoti Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English) Shreya Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Last Updated on

A tattoo is a form of art that is generally symbolizes something for the wearer. Wildlife or animal tattoo designs are a good choice if you want your tattoo to vessel deep meanings. Each animal tattoo is meaningful and has a distinct symbolism. These tattoos are not gender-specific and can be inked anywhere on the skin.

Animal tattoos are highly sought after and can be designed in many different styles. Some are pretty straightforward, like the tattoo of a beloved pet, while others may carry symbolic meanings for the owners, like a zodiac symbol or spirit animal.

Whatever the reason, if you are looking for meaningful animal tattoo inspiration, we have curated a list of the most popular animal tattoo choices with their meanings. Keep scrolling to check them out.

What Do Animal Tattoos Symbolize?

Animal tattoo meanings may vary depending on the wearer, their personal philosophies, the tattoo style, as well as the animal featured in the tattoo. The following factors can shed light on some general symbolisms and perceptions of animal tattoos.

  • Feelings of deep empathy for creatures that cannot speak for themselves.
  • Love and affection for a cherished pet.
  • Memorial art dedicated to a beloved pet or a special person who had a special connection with animals.
  • Admiration for inspiring qualities in certain animals. For example, the cunning nature of a fox, the speed of a cheetah, the ferocity of a lioness, etc.
  • Cultural symbolism where certain animals are considered sacred. Like, cats in ancient Egypt, cows in India, dogs in Nepal, fish in China, elephants in Thailand, and so on, are highly revered animals as per native traditions.
  • Cultural symbolism where certain indigenous cultures believe in the concept of every human having a spirit animal or every tribal clan having a spiritual totem that manifested in the shape of an animal.
  • Admiration of certain physical characteristics unique to a specific animal, which makes it aesthetically appealing for a tattoo. For instance, the feathers of peacocks, the stripes on a zebra, the spots on a leopard, etc.

Besides the above-mentioned factors, the wearer can ultimately attribute customized meanings to their animal tattoos based on their personal experiences.

If you also feel an inexplicable attachment to animals and would like to get them inked, you may find the following ideas and designs helpful. Check them ou!

The Most Loved Animal Tattoos

Animal tattoos convey the wearer’s attachment to nature and animals, while also drawing attention to their empathetic nature. These tattoos can be done in multiple ways to express your personality and values as well as add to your style statement. Here are a few animal tattoo designs worth considering.

1. Animal Skull Tattoo

An animal skull tattoo half sleeve
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Animal skull tattoos hold a special appeal for people from tribal cultures, goth core enthusiasts, or occult practitioners. These skulls symbolize a spiritual connection, protection against evil, or mortality. Skulls of rams, deers, cows, and snakes are some of the popular choices.

2. Traditional Animal Tattoo

Traditional animal tattoo on the upper arm
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Traditional tattooing style is a great choice for animal tattoos as they can help draw attention to bold line details and rich colors. These tattoos are done in an old-school style. They age well, ensuring you need fewer touch-ups. This particular piece etched with a mix of realism, especially in the eye area that makes the animal look life-like

3. Cheetah Tattoo

A black and gray cheetah tattoo on the forearm
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Cheetahs are known for being quick, powerful, and efficient predators of the wild. They are ever so graceful even as they pursue their prey with undivided determination, and adeptly finding the correct moment to strike. So, a cheetah tattoo represents individuality, self-assurance, ambition, skillful movements, and graceful brutality.

4. Panda Tattoo

A panda tattoo on the upper arm
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The cuddly and adorable pandas make for equally charming tattoo subjects. Pandas are playful creatures that symbolize peace, harmony, liveliness, and harmless mischief. In Chinese culture, they are associated with good fortune, growth, and prosperity. Their black and white coloring may also represent the duality of life through the yin and yang concept.

5. Geometric Animal Tattoo

 A geometric animal tattoo on the forearm
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Geometric tattoos make for minimal yet futuristic pieces that are an edge above your regular contemporary design aesthetics. They cut the outlines of a tattoo shape into sharp geometric facets for a multidimensional look as shown with the dog tattoo above. This style can also be incorporated into a crisp frame to adorn the animal tattoo.

6. Snail Tattoo

A snail tattoo on the thigh
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A snail tattoo is a perfect representation of how slow and steady can mean stability. Snails persevere when making it from one point to another regardless of how slow they are. They carry their home with themselves, therefore, being self-assured in a sense of security. Their shell also symbolizes protection and its shedding represents rebirth.

7. Crocodile Tattoo

A crocodile tattoo on the forearm
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Crocodiles are top predatory creatures of the wild, known for their powerful jaws, and unparalleled patience when it comes to hunting. They stand for a solid defense, resilience, determination, and formidable ambition and so do crocodile tattoos. In certain cultures, they are seen as protectors or guardians of the underworld.

8. Black Panther Tattoo

A black panther tattoo on the back of the shoulder
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Get yourself a black panther animal tattoo that exudes a graceful gait, mysterious energy, and powerful stance. Their jet-black coat camouflages in the dark in the wild, helping them move undetected, and adding to their independence and strength. A tattoo of them can be an ode to these qualities and also serve as a symbol of fierce protection.

9. Stuffed Animal Tattoo

A stuffed animal tattoo on the upper arm
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We have all grown up with that one stuffed animal that kept us company through the darkest nights and brought us much-needed comfort. Why not get a tattoo in gratitude for them? From fluffy teddy bears to long, mushy stuffed snakes, you can take your pick for a comic or cartoon-style animal tattoo.

10. Realistic Animal Tattoo

A realistic animal tattoo on the forearm
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The magnificence of an animal shines through best with a tattoo done in the realism style. There is great emphasis on minute details, drawing out the best features of the animal, like individual lines in the fur, or the little gleam in the eyes. A realistic animal tattoo does the best anatomical justice to the animal while adding to the appeal of your body art.

11. Animal Neck Tattoo

An animal neck tattoo
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A neck tattoo makes for a bold statement. It speaks of your confident nature and willingness to be seen and heard. If your animal tattoo is on the neck, it conveys that you highly value the qualities associated with the animal.

12. Animal Lover Tattoo

An animal lover tattoo featuring pawprints and tiny hearts
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A cute little ink of pawprints makes for a wholesome and delightful animal lover tattoo. It is symbolic of the impression animals have left on our lives. You can choose from a range of pawprint shapes of different animals like dogs, cats, bears, horses, deer, frogs, lizards, and more.

13. Animal Forearm Tattoo

An animal forearm tattoo of a deer
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The forearm is a smart placement choice for those who would like to flaunt or conceal their tattoo at will. The forearm makes for a great area for accessorizing, so play with experimental tattoo styles to adorn your tattoo and the placement. For instance, the deer tattoo above uses the tribal style, giving it a unique ornamental look.

14. Animal Eyes Tattoo

An animal eye tattoo
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Certain animals are gifted with a piercing gaze that has an arresting effect. It is no surprise then, that animal eye tattoos are popular among animal lovers and tattoo enthusiasts. The glowy ember eyes of the hawk or the enticing slitted pupils of a cat are some unique and aesthetically pleasing options.

15. Japanese Animal Tattoo

A Japanese animal tattoo on the spine
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A Japanese tattoo style can add a vibrant and exotic quality to your animal tattoo. Consider getting a tattoo of animals that are sacred in the Japanese culture that can be designed well within your preferred size and placement. For instance, cats, dragons, snakes, cranes, foxes, and so on, are revered creatures in Japanese folklore.

16. Polynesian Animal Tattoo

A Polynesian animal tattoo on the shoulder
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The Polynesian style is a special tribal style of tattooing that adds a raw, earthy charm to your tattoo. Polynesian cultures are heavily influenced by nature and spirituality and hence, their animal tattoos do not just have a unique aesthetic appeal but also have deep religious and spiritual significance.

17. Elephant Tattoo

An elephant tattoo on the upper arm
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Elephants are known as highly intelligent animals with very strong family values. They are known to be strong yet emotional beings who are loyal to the end and have sharp memories. An elephant tattoo can symbolize these characteristics and the virtue of remembering old mistakes and lessons and keeping loved ones close to the heart.

18. Mom And Baby Animal Tattoo

A mom and baby animal tattoo on the forearm
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A straightforward symbolism of a mom and baby animal tattoo is motherhood and the qualities of undying love and nurturing nature. A wearer may opt for a mom-and-baby animal tattoo to represent their own bond with their mother or their children. Adding birth dates or names can help personalize such tattoos, thus enhancing their meaning.

19. Donkey Tattoo

A donkey tattoo on the forearm
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For all their tarnished reputations, donkeys are remarkable animals. They might be stubborn and simple but they carry heavy burdens with unshakeable determination, without complaining, and moving forward bit by bit. Certain cultures also revere them for these qualities and consider them as a sign of good fortune.

20. Two-Headed Animal Tattoo

A two-headed animal tattoo
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A two-headed animal tattoo is rich in symbolism, speaking of contrasting forces or energies. It can represent the wearer’s inner conflict where their minds and hearts are torn between two contradictory beliefs. But they can also represent the quality of being extremely aware due to the ability to consider two opposing perspectives.

21. Dead Animal Tattoo

A dead animal tattoo on the upper arm
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As dismal as the topic may seem, dead animal tattoos can carry extremely inspiring messages. For instance, it can draw attention to the frailty of life, offering the motivation to seize every opportunity and live life to the fullest. It can also be a humble reminder to be kinder as life does not last forever.

22. Animal Mandala Tattoo

An animal mandala tattoo on the forearm
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Intricately illustrated animal mandala tattoo designs are all the rage among people with bohemian aesthetic tastes. Mandalas represent the cyclical nature of life and the quality of finding harmony in an eternally spinning wheel. Placing an animal within a mandala design can signify the yearning for the associated characteristics to prevail eternally.

23. Watercolor Animal Tattoo

A watercolor animal tattoo on the upper arm
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A watercolor illustrative effect can add a creative and artistic touch to your animal tattoo. It softly and naturally blends different colors to give your tattoo shape a timelessness that elevates its overall appeal. A watercolor animal tattoo works wonderfully for portrait-style body art or a memorial tattoo.

24. Rabbit Tattoo

A rabbit tattoo on the forearm
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Rabbits are known to be fast, witty, and alert creatures with sharp senses that help them survive the wild. They are also known for their high reproduction rates, making them and any tattoo representing them a symbol of fertility, new life, or prosperity. In Asian cultures and folklore, they are also depicted as playful, cunning beings that also bring good fortune.

25. Mini Giraffe Tattoo

A mini giraffe tattoo on the thigh
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Giraffes are elegant creatures that inspire awe and admiration for their long, slender bodies, and distinctly patterned fur. So, giraffe tattoos can be a symbol of the ability of looking far and planning ahead due to their high vantage point. These tattoos, just like the animals, can exude gentleness and show a deep connection to the wilderness.

26. Zebra Tattoo

A zebra tattoo on the calf
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It is a remarkable fact that no two zebras have the same set of stripes on their body. This makes zebra tattoos symbolic of embracing one’s individuality and standing out despite being part of a herd. The animal’s black and white coloring looks great for minimal-style tattoos while also representing the yin and yang duality of life.

27. Octopus Tattoo – design change

An octopus tattoo on the thigh
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Octopuses are deep-sea creatures that have been observed to be extremely intelligent with problem-solving skills, and the ability to shift forms to adapt to their environments and camouflage themselves. These qualities make an octopus tattoo speak of the wearer’s will to expertly navigate through life without revealing much of themselves.

28. Horse Tattoo

Horse tattoos are not only great style symbols but also represent strength and beauty. A majestic stallion in motion is a great tattoo idea. A simple and adorable tattoo idea would be that of a dala horse or a carnival horse.

29. Bear Tattoo

Bear tattoos represent immense strength and an overbearing personality that can crush others. Some bear species like the koala bear could represent cuteness and innocence. Winnie the Pooh is an animated bear that one could consider inking.

30. Raven Tattoo

The raven was originally a white bird. There are many legends describing the reason for the raven turning black. Some say Noah sent out the raven to test the level of water before sending out the dove. But instead of returning the raven settled into the land. This enraged God and he turned the Raven black. Ravens convey bad omens and mystery.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Larger areas such as the shoulder, chest, back, arm, and sleeve are the ideal places to get a raven tattoo because of the intricate detailing (especially on the feathers) that goes into it.

31. Peacock Tattoo

Peacocks are very charming, elegant, and beautiful creatures. They represent beauty, dignity, pride and self assurance. They represent beauty, dignity, pride, and self-assurance. Peacocks have a variety of colors on them which make tattooing them a lot of fun. This is indeed a gorgeous being to tattoo on oneself. One could also tattoo a peacock feather if tattooing an entire peacock seems too much.

32. Lion Tattoo

Lions are the king of animals. Lions represent leadership and strength. Lions are admirable animals and have awe-striking tattoo ideas. An animated touch might be added by inking Simba, the character from the animated film The Lion King.

protip_icon Trivia
Charisma Carpenter, Marsha Ambrosius, Chiara Ferragni, Ella Mai, and Rumer Willis are well-known celebrities with lion tattoos.

33. Tiger Tattoo

Tigers are very fierce animals. They represent bravery, fierceness, strength, and courage. 3D touches might be added to bring out the ferocity of the tiger. The entire body of the tiger may be tattooed or just the face. Whichever way it is inked, this is a majestic animal tattoo design to have.

34. Dog Tattoo

Dogs make great pets. They are loyal and provide good companionship. A dog tattoo can be made to resemble a pet you once had or simply as a style statement. Cartoon touches may be added to the tattoo to make it comical and fun. There is great variety in these tattoo designs and in the range of colors.

35. Fish Tattoo

Fish have biblical allusions and represent miracles and magic. They also convey good fortune, prosperity, and foresight. The salmon fish in particular represents knowledge. Fish tattoos can be made in tribal or brushwork designs and in a range of colors.

36. Cat Tattoo

Cats are related to mysticism and supernatural powers. They also portray feminine energy and independence. A black cat might represent an interest in witchcraft and the supernatural. Cats have many species and thus form a variety of tattoo ideas.

37. Snake Tattoo

Snakes are slithery and dangerous beings. They can injure humans with just one bite. Snake bites can be poisonous and fatal. Therefore, snake tattoos convey danger and fierceness of character.

38. Dragon Tattoo

Dragon Tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

Dragons are considered powerful creatures in some cultures, while in others they are associated with wisdom and knowledge. A dragon tattoo symbolizes strength, courage, an ability to overcome challenges, a representation of intellectual prowess, or a thirst for learning. It may also symbolize good luck and yang energy, as some Chinese folklore consider dragons as positive beings.

39. Wolf Tattoo

Wolf Tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

Wolves are powerful animals with a strong sense of loyalty to their pack. They also have keen instincts and survival skills. A wolf tattoo is symbolic of strength, resilience, companionship, and loyalty. It also represents guidance and protection, as wolves are seen as spiritual guides in some mythologies.

Infographic: 10 Commonly Tattooed Animals And Their Symbolism

It’s interesting how humans can symbolize animals based on their observations and interactions with them. That said, animals and fantastical creatures are some of the most commonly chosen figures for tattoo designs. These tattoos are meant not just to be symbolic but also express how an individual relates to them. In the infographic below, we have summarized all the animal symbolisms we have seen in the article. Take a look!

10 commonly tattooed animals and their symbolism (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Animal tattoo designs are not just limited to animal lovers. Each animal signifies specific emotions and characteristics. You can use these patterns to celebrate your pets as well. Add your own touch and personalize your animal tattoo to make it aesthetic, fashionable, and unique. You can get a sweet minimalist pattern or choose a bold and massive design. You can go the traditional monotone way or add life to your patterns by making them colorful. That said, make sure you follow the aftercare prescribed to prevent your tattoo from getting infected or inflamed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some considerations when choosing an animal tattoo?

A few things to consider when choosing an animal tattoo is to reflect on the purpose of getting the tattoo. If you have a personal connection to it, it will be a meaningful peace you can find relatable for a long time. You must also consider the tattoo style that will best suit the animal’s feature as well as placements that can accommodate your desired tattoo size without appearing odd.

Can I customize an animal tattoo to make it more personal?

Yes, you can certainly try experimental tattooing techniques and creative color palettes to add a unique touch to your animal tattoo. You may also add additional design elements or text to give it multi-layered symbolism.

What are some popular animal tattoo styles?

The most popular animal tattoo style is reportedly realism as it brings out great life-like details in the tattoo. Additionally abstract, watercolor, fine-line, geometric, and mandala are some trending animal tattoo styles that portray the animals in unique and creative designs.

Which animal tattoo is lucky?

According to Chinese culture, panda tattoos represent prosperity and good luck.

What does a butterfly tattoo mean?

Butterfly tattoos represent femininity, beauty, young love, and joy.

What does a bee tattoo mean?

A bee tattoo represents loyalty, honor, and duty.

What does a bird tattoo mean?

Different birds represent different meanings. However, generally, a bird represents the desire to live free and happy.

Key Takeaways

  • Animal tattoos are popular gender-fluid designs that can be adorned by anyone and anywhere on the body.
  • These animal tattoo designs often incorporate elements like a zodiac symbol, spirit animal, or even one’s beloved pet.
  • A few of the most popular animal designs include dog, bear, lion, wolf, and snake tattoos.
  • Mythical creatures like dragons are also a common choice amongst tattoo enthusiasts and symbolize good luck and courage.
Animal Tattoo Designs

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Want to get inspired and find the perfect animal tattoo for yourself? Check out this awesome video featuring 100 animal tattoos for men!

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Jingxi Gu
Jingxi GuLicensed Tattoo Artist
Jingxi Gu is a licensed tattoo artist originally from Shanghai, China. She is also the owner and lead artist at Patch Tattoo Therapy in Tarzana, CA, which offers custom tattoos and tattoo training workshops for aspiring tattoo artists.

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