Why People Choose Animal Tattoos

Animals are one of the most popular subjects of tattooing.

As it turns out, we’ve been tattooing animals on ourselves since as far back as 3350 BC.

In fact, the oldest animal tattoos were found on an Egyptian mummy known as ‘Gebelein Man A’ from 3350-3320 BC.

His tattoo depicts a wild bull and a Barbary sheep (like a goat).

The oldest tattooed human on record, Alpine mummy Ötzi the Iceman, dates to the same time period.

But his are geometric designs, making Gebelein Man A’s artwork the oldest ever found with animals.

Further reading: Delve into the History of Tattoos

Animals are so diverse; there’s a lot to choose from.

This makes each tattoo unique as to the reason why you may choose to get one.

Typically, animal lovers get their tattoo to align with a feeling or emotion that they are reminded of.

For example, someone may get a lion tattoo to symbolize bravery or courage, while another person might get a similar tattoo to signify strength of family.

animal tattoos tiger skull full back tattoo realism realistic

Wild animal tattoos are popular among both men and women of all ages.

They’re so versatile, you’ll find them on any and all body parts.

Yes, ALL body parts.

Animal tattoos can be vibrant and ferocious, or understated and petit.

Inspirational and meaningful, or decorative and beautiful.

Take wild and dangerous animals that bring out the fear in us. 

They are known for their strength and ruthlessness.

Yet we like to believe that these untamed animals have a kind and compassionate side too.

Ultimately, the main reason we find ourselves tattooed with animals is because we believe they reflect our inner selves.

As with all tattoos, your personality will definitely shine through.

Animism & Animal Tattoos

Animals have a prominent place in mythology, mysticism, and magic. 

Rooted in the most ancient traditions, animism finds meaning in animal symbolism.

Many ancient cultures practiced tribal tattooing that featured animals in their depictions of religion, spirituality, and tales.

From Native Americans to the Lepcha people of India, across the world animal tattoos help to give meaning and purpose in life.

Animals have been thought to represent everything from death and the afterlife to parallel universes.

Let’s take a look at some of the animal tattoo trends taking body art to the next level.

1. Realistic Animal Tattoos

One of the most popular ways of honouring animals is through realistic animal tattoos.

Using realism to depict your favourite animal accurately reproduces it on your body.

There are some seriously talented artists bringing animals to life through ink, especially with the introduction of white ink and new techniques.

A realistic animal tattoo can be black and white or full colour, big or small.

Often, they look just like a photograph, moving into the area of hyperrealism.

Just like in nature, one animal portrait tattoo will never look like another.

2. Abstract Animal Tattoos

With a big swing from realistic tattoos to something completely different, we enter the world of abstract animal tattoos.

Abstract art is, well, abstract.

Famous abstract painters include Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

There are many ways to define what makes a tattoo abstract, but for the purpose of this article let’s say it means a representation of something.

An abstract tattoo doesn’t have to look like a rorschach image that you need to interpret.

Abstract animal tattoos are less about the ‘what’ and more about how it makes you feel.

They demonstrate a unique creative expression through colours and shapes that may not necessarily be found naturally in that combination.

The purpose of abstract art is to push the boundaries of traditional art; and abstract animal tattoos do just that.

Through unusual colours and shapes, emotions and spirituality can be portrayed alongside that of the animal.

lion tattoo abstract full colour animal tattoos

3. Hybrid Human & Animal Tattoos

If you’re looking to go further than the symbolism of your animal tattoo, you may consider an animal/human hybrid.

We’ve seen this style gain massive popularity recently.

For example, rather than just getting a tiger tattoo, people are now getting a tiger’s open mouth with a face within.

animal tattoos hybrids human animal tattoo colour arm

Humans have always been fascinated by hybrids, so it should come as no surprise that animal/human portrait tattoos are gaining popularity.

‘Otherkin’ Tattoos

Not to get off topic, but have you heard of ‘Otherkin’?

They are a subculture of people who identify as not entirely human. 

Could it be that the rise in popularity of animal/human hybrid tattoos has to do with the belief that part of the soul is in some way animalistic?

Food for thought.

4. Mandala, Geometric & Tribal Animal Tattoos

animal tattoos lion tattoo mandala chakras third eye geometric tattoo

Alright, these are more like three styles and technically they’re also abstract tattoos, but there’s no arguing that mandala, geometric and animal tattoos are on the rise.

The symbolism of geometric shapes is that a single shape can have a vastly different meaning to different people.

Mandalas are geometric shapes and patterns that represent beliefs stemming from South Asian and Japanese cultures.

Mandala animal tattoos combine the meaning of mandalas with totem animals; animals that act as a spiritual guide. 

This style is a beautiful way to honour the animals that you love and identify with.

5. Fine Line, Minimalism & Watercolour Animal Tattoos

Delicate and tiny animal tattoos are fast becoming the latest tattoo trend of the body art world.

These petit tattoos are much harder than they look to accomplish.

Fine line tattoos of animals can be extremely detailed or a single line.

Often, fine line tattoos of animals are accompanied by a watercolour effect.

Once again, we find ourselves reminded that tattoos truly are works of art.

Further reading:

5 Moving Tattoo Tributes to Mourn the Loss of a Pet

Vegan Tattoo Ink for a Better Tattoo and a Better World

Tattoos We Are Seeing Fade Into History