From stealing picnic baskets at the park to mauling territorial foes for dinner, the bear ranks at the top of the food chain.
A symbol of confidence and commanding authority; the bear is a mauling machine when provoked.
This animal has a free-spirited nature like the great wind, however it is still always fully prepared to defend its space with a fierce wrath. Speaking of space, you can find all kinds of bears while roaming the wild like the grizzly, black, brown and polar bear throughout North America, South America, Asia and Europe.
While it might be a majestic experience to encounter one today, you might be surprised to know the unique meanings and symbolism of the bear in prehistoric and ancient times.
For instance, Siberians viewed the bear or karhu to be one of their forefather’s spirits. While Korean mythology has been said to see bears as past ancestors. In early Ainu and Chinese cultures, some even worshiped this spiritual animal. For the Sioux, the bear symbolizes healing and the honor of a successful hunt.
In today’s times, the bear can be seen as the national animal of Finland. While in the U.S, the black bear and grizzly bear are state animals. If you look at the state seal of California or Missouri, you’ll find this majestic animal on them too. Further away, the bear has often been included on the heraldic arms of Warwickshire country in the UK.
However, in a truer sense, the bear is an ultimate symbol of strength and confidence. It may be a nurturing animal yet it’s still willing to protect its imminent domain at any cost. In Alchemical tradition, is the symbol of transformation.
It is the spirit of standing up against advertising, being a leader, and taking action within your own life. In the opposite regard, the bear can symbolize solitude, rest and relaxation, which is why it’s often associated with medicine and healing.
No matter what the bear may mean to you, you’re sure to enjoy this collection of the top 60 best bear tattoo designs for men. These ideas are just as awe-inspiring as it is to witness a bear up close. Get ready to be inspired by the beauty of nature below.
Bear Tattoo Ideas
Bear images in the tattoo world have been growing in popularity in recent years and this is an interesting example of these powerful tattoos. Here, different shading techniques are used to create a realistic depiction of a bear ripping its way out of the wearer’s shoulder. The artist uses more traditional shading on the torn flesh portion of the tattoo while a layered hatching technique is used to create the texture of the bear’s fur. Small details, like the shadows under the claws and the white highlights in the teeth and eyes, help this tattoo to pop and stand out from other bear pieces.
Here is another interesting tattoo that features a bear as the center piece. The shading on the fur is outstanding and provides a realistic texture to the piece. The white highlights on the claws and the drool flying from the bear’s mouth help to increase contrast and take the tattoo to the next level. Other design elements that are incorporated into this piece are the rifle rounds and magazine below the bear’s face, perhaps representing the wearer’s love of hunting or previous military service. Bears are fierce symbols of strength and are often used to represent the wearer’s tenacity and aggressive nature.
This is an interesting tattoo that also uses an illustrative design to pay homage to these powerful animals. In this piece the bear is not snarling like in other tattoos, but instead appears almost contemplative. This is a great example of some of the other, less aggressive traits that bears can represent, such as wisdom and majesty. The smooth and subtle shading is outstanding, giving texture and depth to the fur, and the highlights on the top of the head enhance the realistic design. The eyes are left empty, giving the bear an ethereal and mystical look to complete the tattoo.
This is another good example of a bear tattoo. This piece makes good use of realistic shading techniques to bring a grizzly bear to life. The placement on the inside of the bicep is an interesting choice, and it appears that this bear is part of a larger, existing piece. The progression of tones in grey-wash—from almost true black on the nose and in the mouth, all the way to white at the top of the head—help provide contrast and definition without resorting to bold line work. The use of negative space to create wisps of smoke improves the simple composition and could help tie the tattoo into existing work.
This simple design captures the ferocity of these powerful animals. Here the use of shading creates a textured piece while a liberal use of highlights increases contrast. The position of the head— forward facing with a slight tilt—allows the artist to use the natural shadow create movement in the tones. The gradual transition from darker tones on the bottom right side of the head, up to white at the top left, not only accurately and realistically portrays the bear, but also makes for a more interesting design.
Here is an interesting piece that incorporates several different styles to create a unique tattoo. At the center is a realistic, grey wash portrait of a roaring bear. While the image is fairly well balanced there are some issues with this bear. If the artist had used black ink for the dark portions of the bear (the bottom of the head and inside the mouth) the contrast would help define the highlights on the top of the head and around the face. In the lower area surrounding the bear, full color geometric designs provide a frame to the black and grey focal point, while above a landscape and sunset make use of a water color aesthetic. While perhaps this piece is not everyone’s cup of tea, there is no doubt it holds a powerful meaning for the wearer.
This is another gorgeous example of a realistic bear tattoo that chooses a more passive bear to draw inspiration from. This tattoo uses black and grey shading to great effect, making use of a broad gradient of tones to create a captivating image. The white highlights, in the eyes in particular, help to bring this creature to life, perfectly translating the magnificence of these powerful animals into a unique tattoo. The use of negative space to create silhouettes of trees adds an additional layer of depth to this piece and could represent the wearer’s respect and love for the woodlands and forests that bears call home.
This artist used a different illustrative style to create a one of a kind bear tattoo. The bold colors and interesting design elements in this new-school piece help set this bear apart from other animal designs while still maintaining all of the meaning associated with bears. The bear is holding onto to an old school lamp post and the saturated black of the fur, the warm glow of lamp post and the blue in the eyes creates and interesting but limited color palate. The line work is bold and well-executed and small details, like the warm glow cast on the bear’s paws from the lamp, further demonstrate the artist’s patience and meticulousness in creating and applying this design.
Here is an interesting piece that takes the common image of a snarling bear, and gives it a horror show twist. In this tattoo the bear appears to be rotting while it’s still alive, like some zombie beast. The use of stipple shading as well as more traditional black and grey work helps to convey the grotesque nature of this design. The way the skin is peeled back on the cheeks and snout exposing the musculature and tendons adds an anatomical accuracy to this ghoulish bear. This tattoo is definitely not for everyone, but tattoos are personal expressions of each wearer and this piece exemplifies that virtue.
This tattoo makes use of the large space on the pectoral to put this lovely bear on display. The artist was able to expertly size and place this bear to take up the most possible space on the skin without interfering with the existing work. The use of gradual changes in tone, from the darkest areas on the right hand side to the lighter tones and highlights in the hair and teeth, help create depth and contrast with very little use of solid lines. The details in the eyes—the slight area visible outside the iris and the white highlights—really brings this bear to life and help complete this tattoo.
Here is a bear design that truly stands out from the crowd. The abstract use of alternating geometric patterns, some of which have Native American traits, gives this tattoo contrast without using a broad spectrum of colors and tones. It is also worth noting that the shape and direction of the bear are drawn straight from the state flag of California, no doubt serving as a tribute to the wearer’s time in the area. The placement, on the chest, over the heart, further indicates the wearer’s special connection with the Golden State and their beloved bruins.
This tattoo uses grey-wash and subtle shading to create an interesting design inspired by nature. The placement on this piece is also worth noting: the way the image wraps around the wearer’s arm creates a dynamic effect when viewing this piece: the entirety of the tattoo is only visible as the arm turns, revealing the details and composition. The shading and use of highlights to create contrast works well and the incorporation of trees silhouetted against the full moon improves the overall composition of the piece. This is an interesting design and no doubt represents the wearer’s love for Mother Nature and all her creatures.
This interesting piece uses a bear and star as the focal point for the design. These elements, long the symbols of the Soviet Union, invoke a sense of strength and determination that may inspire the wearer’s tribute to their homeland. The deep saturation in the black behind that star allows the highlights to pop and helps create an interesting composition. The light tones and subtle shading in the bear’s face give this animal a flesh and blood feeling that contrasts nicely with the rigidity of the star beneath. This piece is well planned and expertly applied, providing the wearer a permanent reminder of the strength of these mighty creatures.
This interesting piece uses an illustrative style reminiscent of a stamp or postcard. The stipple shading and a color palate limited to red and black help to achieve this simple, stationary like effect. The border makes use of a layered effect to give the impression of a stamp being used multiple times with different inks, making an image similar to a post card accumulating several stamps from different locations. The image of a grizzly bear fishing for salmon is a common scene in Alaska and may represent the wearer’s attachment to this rugged land, or simply their overall appreciation for the strength and beauty of the natural world.
This vivid, full body image is striking for its size and scope as well as for the expert execution. Bold colors are used to dramatic effect here and the piece is perfectly incorporated into the broader composition of the wearer’s almost completely tattooed body. Aspects of this piece take cues from Pacific Northwest Native American’s interpretations of bears, while at the same time drawing inspiration from the psychedelic artwork of 1960’s album covers (think In the Court of the Crimson King). The gorgeous piece is a testament to the skill of the artist as well as the dedication of the wearer: this tattoo represents hours and hours of planning and expert execution and is sure to draw attention whenever the shirt comes off.
This is a lovely design that takes a realistic approach to memorialize the wearer’s appreciation for the black bear. The use of well saturated black to lay the foundation for the bear’s fur in cooperation with the white highlights creates a depth and texture in this piece. The colors of the nose, snout and eyes help to further animate the tattoo and give a lifelike feel to this bear. The use of a water color style for the border of the image helps to blend the piece with the blank skin and minimize what would be a stark transition. These colors also compliment the overall palate and improve the composition of the piece.
This gorgeous tattoo uses multiple elements to create a unique piece. First off, the composition is meticulously planned and expertly executed. At the bottom of the image is the black silhouette of a bear with land and stream in the background and a loose, black border around the animal. As the image moves up the arm, a more abstract, water color technique is used to create a space-scape complete with stars, galaxies and geometric shapes. Finally, at the top of the image is a large bear that uses line work and hatching to evoke images of the constellation of Ursa Major and looks ready to jump off the skin. This tattoo could represent the wearer’s deep admiration for these bears and is a great example of the endless possibilities for these tattoos.
This is an excellent example of a bear done in the American traditional style. The bold line work and densely packed color help to make this tattoo pop while eschewing some of the more detailed design elements common in other styles. Traditionally this style of tattoo used bears to represent the fierce determination and independence these animals are known for. The limited color palate and simple design perfectly capture the most prominent features of the bear to create a striking piece.
This tattoo is packed full of different design elements and styles and creates a dynamic piece without feeling crowded or untidy. A woman’s face outlines an idyllic lakeside scene and serves as the center piece of the tattoo; above sits a stylized bear face complete with its own tattoos. Maple leaves filled with honey comb fall around the image and a bear’s silhouette completes the design at the bottom of the image. The maple leaf is a common symbol of Canada, a country known for its bears and their notorious passion for honey. This is almost certainly a tribute to the rugged wilderness of America’s northern neighbor.
Bear Tattoo FAQs
What does the bear symbolize?
Bears have been represented in almost every culture around the world, from the Old Testament in the Judeo Christian tradition, to ancient Norse mythology, as well as extensive representation in Native American folk-lore. In all of these disparate traditions bears symbolize strength, independence and courage. In more modern times these bears are admired for their physical strength as well as being representatives of both the brutal and gentle aspects of nature: the mother bear is a tender parent but fierce protector of her cubs. These enigmatic creatures are also symbols of leisure, natural medicine and wisdom in different cultures.
What is the meaning of a bear paw tattoo?
Traditionally in Native American cultures the bear was a symbol of power and was often worn by those who felt a deep connection to the animal as well being used as a form of protection. In modern times this traditional symbol is used to represent any of the multitude personality traits and characteristics these majestic creatures stand for.