While the tiger may be the largest member of the cat family in the world, it’s time in the jungle seems to be running out. From nine species of tigers down to six, with the rest all endangered.
Yet, even today the tiger still remains one of nature’s most featured predators, and for a good reason.
The truth is, this animal has the ability to kill foes twice its own size!
Not to mention, tigers also scent-mark massive territories and take advantage of their camouflaged coats in the wild. In fact, oddly enough, it’s been determined that no two have the same stripes!
As masters of their domain with a bold and mighty mentality, it’s simple to see why the symbolism behind them is so strong.
For instance, in China the tiger represents the king of all beasts, it is a symbol of powerful energy. It can also be seen with Tsai Shen Yeh, the Chinese God of Wealth too. While in Asian culture, some believe this animal is the protector of the dead. It’s a good reason why you’ll find so many tombstones and graves with symbols of the tigers engraved into them.
Now, a popular design stems from the five Asian tigers: White, black, blue, red, and yellow.
White is for the fall season ruler and metal elemental governor. Black is associated with the season of Winter and the water elementals. Blue, for the season of spring and earth elementals. However, yellow represents the supreme ruler of them all, plus a symbol tribute to the Sun.
To help you navigate a jungle of ideas, I’ve put together a guide of the top 100 best tiger tattoos for men. From the Bengal, Siberian, Malayan, Sumatran South Chinese and more, you’ll find plenty of wild designs to enjoy!
1. White Tiger Tattoos
There is something instantly appealing about white tigers. Thanks to a pair of Las Vegas magicians, people around the world are familiar with these impressive cats, but white tigers are incredibly uncommon, with the mutation causing this pigmentation only occurring in one out of every 10,000 births. White tigers also tend to be larger than the more common orange and black Bengal tigers and have striking sapphire eyes, adding to their appeal in terms of tattoo design.
These cats are powerful symbols, not only of ferocity and strength, but also of spiritual enlightenment and transcendence. In some traditions they are considered the guardians of the gates to the afterlife; because of this and their rarity they have earned a reputation of being deeply magical animals. As these stunning pieces demonstrate, they are excellent subjects for tattoos.
2. Japanese Themed Black and Gray Tiger Tattoos
While many people associate the Japanese tattoo tradition with vibrant colors, there is actually a long history of black and gray work in the world of irezumi. In fact, irezumi first arose as a tattoo style that utilized mostly black, gray and red ink as they were the easiest and most stable to make. As time passed and the development of inks became more advanced, different colors became popular, although as we can see, traditional Japanese tattoos still look excellent in black and gray.
The effect that is created in these intricate pieces is similar to the ukiyo-e tradition of creating prints using hand carved wood blocks as templates. Their fierce visages and elegant bodies—along with their deep symbolic power—make tigers excellent subjects for this traditional tattoo style.
3. Colorful Big Cat Tattoos
Though it is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, there is definitely something to be said for designs that utilize large swaths of vibrant colors to create eye catching tattoos. With their unmistakable orange and black markings and the opportunity for intricate details that the black stripes offer, tigers are the prefect subjects for these bright color schemes.
Another element of symbolism that is on display in these tattoos is the different meaning associated with the direction a tiger is walking. In Chinese and Japanese traditions, a tiger going up represents completed tasks and overcoming obstacles, while a tiger coming down is associated with the animal coming to hunt, but also representing ambition and determination. Whichever direction the tiger is heading, these excellent designs demonstrate just how exciting these tattoos can be.
4. Photo-realism Tiger Tattoos
Tattoos are powerful tools for self-expression: fashion changes and styles come and go, but tattoos are forever. Because of the inherent permanence in the art form, it is important for anyone interested in getting a tattoo to find designs and artists that suit their personal tastes and sensibilities, and for some people an illustrative approach just won’t cut it.
Thankfully, there are artists talented enough to create tattoos that look as if they came straight out of a page from National Geographic. As these striking tattoos demonstrate, whether applied in black and gray or full color, tigers are excellent subjects for the highly detailed photo-realistic approach.
5. Neo Traditional Tiger Tattoos
The neo-traditional school arose out of the progenitor of modern Western tattooing known as the American traditional style. And while there is no denying the historical significance or visual appeal of this original style, some people find the rules that govern American traditional tattoos a bit restricting.
Neo-traditional artists use elements from American traditional like bold outlines and densely packed and vibrant colors while tossing other elements to the wayside. For example, the limit on acceptable colors that is observed by American traditional hardliners is lifted to include any number of different shades and tones in neo-traditional.
Artists also have more freedom to experiment with different subject matter as well as the ability to utilize a more realistic approach than is common in American traditional tattoos. These exciting designs are great examples of the style with tigers as subjects.
6. Innovative Tiger Tattoos
Art is interesting. It is a vocation and calling: a spiritual pursuit and a profession. Art is built on traditions passed down from master to apprentice, however art is also alive and constantly changing. The rules and conventions that delineate one style from another are forever begging to be ignored by brave young artists, and the art of the tattoo is no different.
Thanks to the thousands of talented artists around the world, tattoo styles are constantly being tweaked and changed, new colors added and different approaches taken. These changes and developments in turn shape the discipline as a whole and create the rules and guidelines that become the styles of tomorrow. This endless cycle of innovation is what keeps the art alive, and these tiger tattoos are excellent examples of the endless creative struggle that pushes the boundaries of the medium.
7. Japanese Inspired Color Tattoos
Japan has one of the longest unbroken tattoo traditions on the planet and this longevity—along with the stunning beauty of the work—make Japanese inspired designs some of the most popular styles for tattoos.
Some of these pieces take an approach that draws a direct line from traditional irezumi tattoos, while others incorporate different styles to create new and original works. Tigers are perfect for these tattoos thanks to their striking appearance, the opportunity to use vibrant colors that they provide and the deep spiritual and symbolic meaning that they hold. These tattoos demonstrate just how appealing Japanese inspired designs still are.
8. Hand and Foot Tiger Tattoos
While they have been associated with criminals and scallywags in the past, hand tattoos continue to push their way into the mainstream as attitudes about become more relaxed. These permanently visible tattoos aren’t for the faint of heart, but the impressive nature of a snarling dragon on the back of the hand is hard to deny.
Conversely, feet are far more personal and are a great choice for anyone that doesn’t necessarily want to show everyone and their mom their ink. Whether on display for whole world to see on the hand, or for personal enjoyment on the foot, tigers are excellent subjects for any tattoo placement.
9. Black and Gray Tiger Tattoos
For some people bright and vibrant colors don’t have a place in tattoos; they prefer the understated elegance and subtle lines of black and gray work. While tigers—with their stunning coats famous for their colors— may not seem like the best candidates for black and gray designs, in the hands of a talented artist, even these fierce cats can become excellent subjects for black and gray tattoos. Successfully executing these designs with such a limited color palette is impressive and these tattoos are testaments to the talent of the artists that applied them.
10. American Traditional Tiger Tattoos
Famous for the bold lines and densely packed colors that shape the style, American traditional tattoos have been getting inked on skin as long as Americans have been getting tattooed. Originally drawing inspiration from the nautical lifestyle where the art form took root, tigers have actually been common elements in the style for decades. I
n fact, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins—one of the Godfathers of American traditional tattooing—created a tiger that has become a quintessential emblem of the style. With their fierce glares, bold colors and deep meaning, it is no surprise that people from every style and tradition in the tattoo world continue to ink these marvelous beasts on their bodies.
Tiger Tattoo FAQs
What does a tiger tattoo symbolize?
Tigers are majestic animals. The largest of all the big cat species, tigers had a historical range that stretched from the Indonesian archipelago, through South East Asia and India, all the way to Eastern Turkey. While their numbers have declined to levels that put these beautiful animals on the endangered species list, the symbolic power that they hold remains as strong today as it did a thousand years ago.
Thanks to their imposing physical appearance and location firmly at the top of the food chain—the tiger’s only competition and threat comes from man—tigers have become symbols of physical prowess and brute strength, however their significance is more nuanced than simple killing machines.
In China the tiger is a symbol in the zodiac and people born under its sign are often thought to be brave, competitive and confident, while the tiger itself is viewed with both awe and admiration. Within the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, the tiger is considered the embodiment of yin energy that evokes apprehension while the dragon represents yang energy and prosperity. In China the tiger is also associated with autumn when these animals would come down from the mountains and enter villages, although many Chinese myths and stories depict tigers as benevolent, killing wicked men and protecting the virtuous.
For thousands of years in India tigers were seen as symbols of power and beauty, magnificence and ferocity. The tiger has played such a pivotal role in the stories and myths of the sub-continent that it has been elevated to the role of the national animal of India.
As we can see, tigers have a more complex symbolic role than strictly apex predators—although they most definitely are at the top of the heap in this regard. This deep spiritual and metaphorical significance along with their beautiful coats and fearsome visages, make tigers some of the most striking subject matter for a variety of different tattoo styles.
Click on the links below for more awesome big cat tattoo examples:
- Geographic Tiger Tattoo Ideas
- Japanese Tiger Tattoo Designs
- Top 75 Traditional Tiger Tattoo Ideas
- Tribal Tiger Tattoo Designs