Second to the tiger, the lion is among the largest living five cats in the world. To put this in perspective, most male lions weigh an astonishing 550 lbs!
Their majesty and awe has been widely recognized across Europe, Asia and Africa for thousands of years.
In fact, 32,000 years ago they could be seen in paleolithic human cave art in Southern France. Back then hunting these wild animals in nature was an immense symbol of pride.
Even Ancient Egypt carved the stone of the sphinx with a lioness body to protect the pharaohs.
Over this period it has rightfully taken claim to the title as “king of beats” and “king of the jungle”.
However, when it comes to the symbolism and meaning of the lion, just turn to the Greek 6th century BC fables from Aesop. You’ll discover the lion showcases bravery quite exceptionally. In mythology, there’s the Nemean lion too, which stood for the constellation and zodiac sign Leo. It’s often been said that the lion’s skin was worn by the popular hero Heracles.
In English heraldry and symbolism, the lion has significant historical presence. The Three Lions for the English King Richard the Lionheart can be seen on coats of arms and the shields of warriors. In fact, many noble warriors took up the nickname of Lion as a testament to having a fine reputation for bravery.
Not to mention, there’s also metaphors which depict this animal as humans who rebel against conventional wisdom and ancient knowledge. It away for a new mortality to emerge, like the Übermensch, or overman in German.
With that said, I’ve put together a collection of the top 85 best lion tattoos for men. As you venture through the guide you’ll discover a jungle of masculine design ideas to work with. From the popular stripes to realistic figures of the lion showcasing exemplary acts of bravery.
This lion tattoo is the perfect example of animal realist style, with the ink looking as if it’s been lifted straight from the film of David Attenborough’s Our Planet. Just love it, from the crystal clear sharp teeth, to the levels of fur shading in muzzle and whisker. Even the skin folds as the lion prepares to roar are done in a painstaking fashion. This chest tattoo is a triumphant expression of the lion’s power and strength.
The lion’s mouth in this upper thigh tattoo is extremely well done and creates a focal point for the work (along with the masterful ink of the big cat’s eyes). The detail etched in to create the pink skin behind sharp teeth is remarkable. The artist has done a good job to get the tawny color consistent and well shaded throughout, when they could have just settled for variations on black and gray shading.
This looks like an illustrated picture from an early edition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Huge fan!
The degree of skill in this piece is commendable, but it’s more intriguing to ask: where did this lion get the camera from?
Meow, how do you like my crown? This is a fantastic piece of lion tattoo work, but is the crown necessary? This piece has masterful elements – the degree of detail in beard, muzzle, whisker, and eyes is epic – and the fur shading has great delineations of black and gray. The crown feels superfluous because you know that this fierce animal is a king.
This new wave tattoo is a great take on an abstract lion, mixing shade and patterning elements commonly found in mandala tattoos to enhance the king of the jungle’s funky style. The quietly brilliant dotwork of the big cat’s face doesn’t immediately stand out, but is important to transitioning from pointy fur and dark pattern to more of a simplistic facial expression contrasting the image.
The lightning bolt border is a cool construct that creates a field the artist works within to draw up a different style of lion. Opting to focus on the muzzle and eyes is a smart choice to strengthen the middle of the artwork, while each section of the bolt offers shade and color transition (lighter at top through to dark at bottom).
This is a well crafted American traditional tattoo. The artist has taken a no frills approach to color, opting for a flat gray supporting black line work. the strength of this old school lion is across the middle – the directional change of the scratch like whiskers and simple dotwork lighten the pattern.
This is a cool lion, tattooed in the Greek classical sculpture style. You can definitely see him hanging out in the Versialles Garden chasing butterflies or lounging at the entrance to the second story of a villa somewhere. The curls of the lion’s mane are the exceptional technical element of the piece, flowing in waves of ink around the big cat’s face.
A great ink representation of Scar from the Lion King – the missing left eye is bad ass, especially when held up in contrast to the gleaming orb on the right. Love the triangular framing and the use of negative space as transitional element. Also, having the shadowy black ink bleed past the border is an interesting stylistic touch that looks fantastic
This lion tattoo combines reference to the Catholic Hymn Be Not Afraid, but uses the lion to build on the following quote from Alexander the Great: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
The fearsome visage of this lion makes for a cool inner forearm tattoo. The artist has deftly employed negative space to create separation between the big cat and other art above the elbow. The muzzle of this lion, lip curled back mid snarl, is a highlight of the piece.
This is great work, however the angle of the lion’s head is not side on enough, or too side on to get the nose and muzzle right in scale (it may be the angle of photo). However, the tawny color of this tattoo is a real standout, as is the beauty of the lion’s eyes and lashes. He’s a handsome man!
This is a nice chest tattoo of a stylized lion. The combination of flowing gray scale ink with corresponding negative space makes for an interesting image, and gives the impression that the cat is in motion.
Awesome display of symmetry in this abstract lion tattoo. Love how the different curving elements are well framed by sharp, crisp black lines that help hold them back from becoming ragged and haphazard. The nose – wide black below with interesting dotwork and zero space above – is an exceptional piece of artistry.
That poor elephant is walking himself into a desperate situation. This is a breathtaking animal realism tattoo. The lion in this artwork looks as the MGM lion got out and got angry.The lion’s snarling muzzle, all fangs and flaring whiskers, is brilliantly enhanced by skilful use of white ink. It’s also used to great effect around the darker shaded elephant and surrounds.
An Asian influenced attempt at a lion chest tattoo, the mane lacks the vigor needed to be a focal point around the wall of gray ink shading. If the chest shading was a different color the man may be a more impressive aspect of the whole artwork, as the lion’s body shapes well across the upper shoulder and joins the arm.
This is a bad ass black and gray lion tattoo in the American traditional style. It features expert clarity in the richness of each black outlining stroke, backed up by clear, crisp, no nonsense shading. The negative space aspects of tongue, teeth and whiskers help balance out the gray black majority ink.
Cool colored lion tattoo built from a traditional gray core. It’s an ambitious piece that works for the most part, although the fiery orange/red ink looks a bit strange above the animal’s eye line. There’s a couple of interesting technical flourishes within the tattoo; black line work amidst the color, and unique use of dot work under the lions bottom lip.
This piece could be the most enjoyable of all described here. Love this tattoo. The sketched lion is beautifully balanced, with freely roaming lines giving depth, scale and unique pattern variations. The black line scribbles to accentuate various points are well done, and the small crosses on the beast’s muzzle are an exceptional technical wrinkle. The image is topped off with the spray can red graffiti overlay, like the big cat’s been tagged by a lazy miscreant walking down an alley in the wrong part of town (Have seen this in Bristol with blue paint balling of Banksy’s street art).
What does a lion tattoo symbolize?
Lions are a great masculine symbol linked with nobility, strength, and honor, and are often used in tattoo art to describe power, physicality, or leadership due to the big cat’s position as King of the Jungle.
Lion tattoos are also hugely popular in England due to their association with the three lions banner of King Richard the Lionheart, which is used as the country’s badge in popular sports football, cricket, and rugby.
How much is a lion tattoo?
The cost of a lion tattoo comes down to various factors that impact on time. The less time your King of the Jungle tattoo takes to get inked the less it will cost.
Small black and gray shaded lion’s head tattoos can take an hour or two – minimalist black line ones even less – and cost as little as $200, while large complex pieces might start at $1000 and climb higher for painstaking dot work detail or abstract new wave style.
The average cost for an experienced artist is usually around $150 – $200 an hour with novices and apprentices costing only $70-80. In demand, harder to book artist charges start at $300 and can go up to $500. Make sure before you commence your lion piece that you have a good understanding of the cost framework.
Allow 15-20% on top of the expected total to tip your artist once your work is complete.
What looks good with a lion tattoo?
Lion tattoos are very often deployed on their own to further the notion of unparalleled strength, nobility, and leadership.
Popular differences from this trope include royal insignia such as crowns, flags, and scepters.
Lions are often used alongside other popular animals of the African savanna – elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, and hippos – or in hunting scenes chasing deer, antelope, buffalo and zebra.