Along with other apex predators such as wolves and lions, bears are one of the most popular animals to get a tattoo of.
Animals have always been a much-loved tattoo subject, due to the impressive range of designs you can create and the wealth of symbolism ascribed to each creature in folk tales, mythology, and nature.
In the tattoo world, bears are a popular design that can show up in any tattoo style.
Bears are beautiful, gentle-looking creatures with a primal side.
As a result, people have been fascinated by them since the beginning of our recorded history.
It’s a human trait to want to classify things.
One of the boldest of all the animal tattoo designs is the bear.
Some people opt for the soft and cuddly side of our fuzzy friends, while others show off their dangerous claws and jaws.
If you’re looking for a tattoo that will stand the test of time, you can’t go wrong with a bear tattoo, given how enduring bear motifs are.
Let’s explore some of the most common bear tattoo designs and styles we’ve seen.
Once you know which bear tattoo meaning resonates with you, you’ll be able to plan a meaningful tattoo design.
Bear Tattoo Designs
It can be hard to choose the perfect design for your new bear tattoo.
Maybe you can take inspiration from some cultural attitudes and traditions.
Once you know the well you’re drawing from, you may have an easier time choosing a bear tattoo design.
Overall though, there were some consistent tattoo themes.
Just be sure that, if you’re inspired by a culture outside your own, you choose your tattoo design with respect.
Grizzly Bear Tattoos
The grizzly bear name is fierce in and of itself.
No one can deny how powerful these animals are, and they are a perfect tattoo to depict that.
The grizzly bear can be traced back to a variety of different cultures.
The grizzly bear tattoo meaning depends on the culture.
Some common meanings involved with a grizzly bear tattoo are strength and power.
Native American tribes believed the grizzly bear had control over the elements, specifically the wind.
They could confuse their enemies when manipulating the wind.
Bear Cub Tattoos
Bear tattoos can be so versatile.
On one hand, we have a bloodthirsty creature who is feared by many.
On the other, we have a funny, irresistibly cute, and sometimes clumsy creature.
Your bear tattoo can play up either side of this animal.
A baby bear tattoo is all about a bear’s softer side.
The bear cub tattoo is a popular choice for parents, especially women who consider themselves “mamma bear.”
Forest Bear Tattoos
For outdoor enthusiasts, a forest bear tattoo is the ultimate symbol of being out in the wilderness.
A bear tattoo adds a little texture and interest to forest landscape tattoos.
Roaring Bear Tattoos
Do you answer the call of the wild?
A roaring bear is a fearful sight, and having one as a tattoo is an invocation of your primal side.
Do you need to get in touch with your wild instincts?
A roaring bear tattoo is a signal to burst out of your domesticated shell once in a while.
Bull & Bear Tattoos
A bull and bear have become sort of like the “tragedy comedy” masks in theatre, but for the stock market.
A bull market is on the rise, while a bear market is falling into decline.
The two animals have become symbols of optimism and pessimism as a result.
It’s often imperative to have both, so and bull and bear tattoo can be a reminder of that balance.
Bear Claw Tattoos
Bear claw tattoos can range from a cute little cub claw to a fierce grizzly.
No matter which claw tattoo one chooses, it is easily recognized.
There is an array of reasons why someone might want to have a bear claw inked on their body.
The bear has a lot of history, so it might be a way for someone to connect with their heritage.
Others might want to manifest what a bear claw represents.
Bear claws are strong and powerful.
One single swipe can cause a lot of damage.
It all depends on what you want your bear claw tattoo to represent.
Panda Bear Tattoos
Don’t allow a panda to fool you.
Although pandas look cute, cuddly, and slow, they can become quite fierce when they need to be.
They always seem to be playing with each other, but they are still are a bear, especially if something threatens their cubs.
It would help if you decided what you want your panda tattoo to represent, or maybe you feel compatible with the playful side of a panda but can switch quickly in the face of a threat and become fierce.
Panda tattoos can portray these traits with the right tattoo artist.
So make sure you do your research on panda tattoo designs to make sure your vision is properly portrayed.
Due to their slow, silly approach to life, panda tattoos have become a symbol for taking things slow.
Koala Bear Tattoos
Koala bears originate from Australia, where you will find the majority of them still there.
Koala bear tattoos are used to represent Australia, which many Aussies will have these cute little bears already inked on themselves.
Interestingly enough, Koala bears aren’t actually bears at all; they are called marsupials.
Koala bears are known for their laid-back nature; this, coupled with their cute and cuddly disposition, the koala bear is an excellent tattoo to choose.
Koala bear tattoos represent peace, stability, family, and tranquility.
How can you go wrong with a cute, furry, playful, peaceful-looking bear as your next tattoo?
Bear Skull Tattoos
Skulls tattoos are known to represent the final exit or a variation of an ending, whether it has already happened or it’s bound to happen.
Bear tattoos, as already discussed, represent strength, protection, fearlessness, and improvement.
So to choose a bear skull tattoo is mixing the two meanings together.
A bear skull tattoo can symbolize honoring these brave yet nurturing creatures.
In Native tradition, the bear is a highly respected animal, whereas some may say it is sacred.
They were all about honoring things they respected, so a bear skull tattoo is a way to do just that.
Polar Bear Tattoos
Indigenous tribes hold high importance towards polar bears in particular.
If you have a connection to indigenous heritage, a polar bear tattoo might be the perfect tattoo to honor it.
Polar bear tattoos symbolize protection, love, and strength.
The polar bear is a spiritual symbol for arctic people, which represents protection and skillful hunting abilities.
It is no surprise that many polar bear tattoos are those drawn in the arctic.
Glaciers, snow, and water are beautiful additions to your tattoo design to portray a polar bear’s home.
Polar bear tattoos can also be designed to look cartoon-ish or more realistic.
No matter what tattoo design you decide on, a polar bear tattoo is a great addition!
Mama Bear Tattoos
Mama bear tattoos are the most comprehensive symbol for protective mothers.
A mother bear is fiercely protective of her cub, and bear tattoos can also be used to represent the strength and bond of motherhood.
Bears are known for being fiercely protective of their young.
Some mothers call themselves “mamma bears.”
They mean this to explain that they’ll do anything for their babies.
A mama bear tattoo may be a natural choice for a matching mother and child tattoo.
Viking Bear Tattoos
Norse and Scandinavian cultures and folklore revered bears.
These mighty creatures used to be considered similar to humans.
A bear was the preferred disguise for Odin, the king of all Norse gods.
To Norse peoples, the Viking bear tattoo is seen as a symbol of wisdom and strength.
A bear tattoo depicted in a Viking tattoo style could also be a bridge between the spiritual and tangible world.
Odin was on an eternal quest for divine knowledge and was prepared to make great sacrifices to obtain it.
If you’re a fan of Norse tattoo culture and have been looking for an original tattoo idea, a bear tattoo with Nordic tattoo motifs would make for a unique ode to Odin.
Now your task is to find a tattoo artist who understands the culture enough to make a proper tribute.
Bear Tattoo Styles
There are a lot of different interpretations and styles for bear tattoos, so experiment with patterns and shapes until you find the one that’s just right for you.
You can get one in any tattoo style.
They suit elaborate portraiture, simple tattoo designs, and everything between.
A bear tattoo can symbolize your love of nature, your quest for knowledge, your protective streak, or your love of star-gazing.
They’re a versatile and accommodating tattoo symbol, and they’ve been revered by so many cultures for so long.
- Black & Grey Bear Tattoos
Black and grey bear tattoos are a beautiful, realistic way to pay homage to this magnificent beast.
These tattoos can be fierce, or they can show the wise and gentle nature of the beast.
Black and grey bear tattoos have a portrait feel but are slightly more romanticized.
- Black-work Bear Tattoos
If you like the monochrome elements of a black and grey tattoo, but want something a little more contemporary, consider a black-work bear tattoo.
Black-work is a stunning tattoo technique with large sections of highly saturated black ink.
Black-work tattoos are a versatile tattoo style because they can be combined with other tattoo techniques for a truly unique result.
- Realistic Bear Tattoos
Realistic tattoo style can refer to photorealism, where a tattoo subject looks exactly as it does in real life, and a take with a little more artistic license.
Some realistic tattoos combine portraiture elements with slightly more surreal effects, making an altogether unforgettable bear tattoo design.
- Graphic Bear Tattoos
In graphic tattoos, artists combine several highly graphic styles to create one image.
These tattoo designs are often a tug of war between symmetry and more organic elements.
We love these graphic bear tattoos because they capture the bear’s essence but have plenty of artistic flairs.
- American Traditional Bear Tattoos
Bears are one of the many animals that feature heavily in American traditional tattoo designs.
American traditional tattoos were often worn by men who wanted to pay homage to their primal instincts and virility while flaunting their dominance over the natural world.
American traditional bears look like they are ready to attack.
Today, traditional bear tattoos are worn by people of all genders as an homage to America’s history with ink.
In this context, a bear tattoo is a protective symbol.
Traditional bear tattoos can represent someone as ferocious or determined.
People who have weathered many storms use bear tattoos to represent their strength and courage.
Black and dark brown inks are the colors of choice to draw the fur on traditional bear tattoos.
The traditional roaring bear tattoo can inspire people to get in touch with their wild side.
Every original traditional tattoo artist had their own unique set of designs.
Flowers, skulls, and hunting bows sometimes get portrayed as part of the tattoo design.
- Single Needle Bear Tattoos
The details in these single needle bear tattoos are breathtaking.
In a single needle tattoo, an artist works with only one needle.
Typically, tattooers use a variety of liners and shaders to achieve their objective.
This is a contemporary tattoo technique and is gorgeous when pulled off well.
- Geometric Bear Tattoos
One trend we’ve seen a lot of in recent years is geometric animal tattoos, with bears proving as popular as ever.
Geometric tattoos differ from realistic designs, focusing on minimal scenes, patterns, and shapes above picture-perfect details.
They are often seen as more modern and artistic than other styles of tattoo and are a great opportunity to work in abstract details like stars and triangles.
Geometric tattoos have a remarkable effect.
The juxtaposition of the natural world meets futuristic geometry is an interesting one to look at.
This tattoo style is similar to graphic tattoos, but in geometric bear tattoo designs, the bear is made up of basic shapes and patterns, rather than being surrounded by them.
Geometric tattoos are known for their contemporary style, but they’ve actually been around since ancient times.
Their origins can be traced back to spiritual practices in places like India, with geometric motifs like the mandala representing the universe and the self.
A lot of geometric tattoos have no religious connection and are simply chosen because of the interesting style.
Other variants on this tattoo idea pair half of a bear’s head with half of a wolf’s head.
- Illustrative Bear Tattoos
Illustrative is a broad term in the tattoo world and simply means that the tattoo looks like a drawing rather than a realistic portrait tattoo.
These tattoos cannot be classified as one style or another, so they are referred to as illustrative tattoos.
If you aren’t sure what tattoo style you like, your artist can get creative with an illustrative bear tattoo design.
- One Line Bear Tattoos
If you like to keep it simple- one-line tattoos are clean and contemporary while still being extremely interesting to the eye.
As the name suggests, a one-line tattoo must be drawn with one continuous line, so it has no detail or shading work.
The resulting use of negative space makes for a dazzling bear tattoo.
- New School Bear Tattoos
If you’re a Saturday morning cartoon kid at heart, the new school tattoo style is the genre for you.
New School tattoos blend cartoonish elements with graffiti techniques to create playful, exaggerated characters.
A new school bear tattoo is sure to turn heads.
- Sketchy Bear Tattoos
Perfect for art fans, the sketch tattoo style looks like it was ripped from a sketchbook.
If you consider yourself a little rough around the edges, think about taking a sketchy approach to your bear tattoo.
- Neo-traditional Bear Tattoos
Neo-traditional tattoos have the best of a few worlds: The saturated color fills with an American Traditional tattoo, the interesting color choices of a New School tattoo design, and the bending, curving lines of Art Nouveau works from yesteryear.
This style is popular for animal designs, and it’s not hard to see why.
These Neo-traditional bear tattoos are truly dazzling and original.
- Tribal Bear Tattoos
Tribal tattoos may be inspired by the traditional artwork from different tribes throughout time.
A tribal bear tattoo may refer to an Indigenous person’s spirit animal, something they would be presented with by an Elder or spiritual leader.
- Watercolor Bear Tattoos
Watercolor tattoos are lively and eye-catching, and watercolor bear tattoos celebrate the spirit of the creature.
We love how the watercolor tattoo technique can be more realistic or abstract, but will always be enchanting.
- Celtic Bear Tattoos
In Celtic traditions, a bear is associated most closely with Artio, the shape-shifting goddess of wildlife.
She can take the form of a bear, and would often be called upon by hunters before an expedition.
As a maternal symbol, a Celtic bear tattoo symbolizes divine protection and was often called upon during harsh Winter weather.
If you have times when you could use a Mamma bear, and you want to celebrate your Celtic heritage, a Celtic tattoo design is perfect for you.
- Contemporary Bear Tattoos
Contemporary bear tattoos are starting to gain popularity.
This can be a way to portray a bear in a relatable way without actually being near a bear.
Every day, new tattoo designs are created to represent this fierce protector, so why not consider contemporary tattoo style for your bear tattoo?
Bear Tattoo Ideas
So you want to get a bear tattoo but don’t know where to begin picking the right idea?
It is normal to feel overwhelmed because bear tattoos can be represented in many ways, so it can be hard just to pick one!
Start with the tattoo style you like and the meaning you want it to portray, and let your tattoo artist help you bring your bear tattoo idea to life!
There are plenty of different bear tattoo ideas to choose from, including simplistic tattoos with single-colored shading or large-scale bear tattoos with intricate details.
- Simple Bear Tattoos
Yes, bear tattoos have a reputation for being mean-looking and intricately detailed, but that doesn’t mean your bear tattoo has to be!
Some tattoo artists add flair to their bear tattoos. Other tattoo artists prefer to keep it simple.
Many tattoo designs will fit that simplistic look you are going for!
A simple bear tattoo can be created in many different ways, so make sure you do some research.
- Large Bear Tattoos
A grown bear’s size is enormous and a terrifying sight if you ever experienced a real-life encounter.
Why don’t you skip the reality of meeting a grown bear and tattoo their impressive size on your body instead?
A large bear tattoo is an excellent way to make a statement of power and fearlessness!
- Bear Tattoo Sleeves
The enormous size of a bear has been discussed, so placement on your body is key in inking one of these massive animals.
A sleeve is plenty of room to truly capture the size of a bear without committing to your entire back or thigh.
A sleeve tattoo allows the length to showcase its fierce size but on a smaller scale.
- Small Bear Tattoos
Are you not ready to commit to a bold, statement tattoo across your chest or a sleeve?
A smaller bear tattoo can still represent the nurturing, protective properties that a bear encompasses.
Maybe choose a bear cub to fit on your ankle or foot?
With a small tattoo, the possibilities are endless!
- Cute Bear Tattoos
Some tattoo styles draw bears as gentle creatures.
Bears are fierce, and there is no denying that.
If you look at a bear, especially a cub, they are so cute.
They have a playful and cuddly nature that accompanies their fearful disposition.
So why not portray that side of a bear, and get a tattoo that is more cartoon-ish?
There is no doubt a cartoon bear is cute!
- Gummy Bear Tattoos
Bears have been morphed into different ways throughout history.
Bears have been made to look cute and harmless to appeal to youngsters as well.
One well-known candy was actually shaped into a bear.
Gummy bears come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.
They are squishy, cute, and taste delicious.
One might choose to get a gummy bear tattoo to represent a childhood memory or as something sweet.
Others will get gummy bear tattoos to represent their children.
They can be made small enough to fit on your ankle or a small part of your hand.
Despite your reasoning, this is a fun way to represent a bear!
- Circus Bear Tattoos
The circus bear is a well-known character.
Despite animals being banned in circuses across the U.S. today, bears used to be a permanent fixture in the circus.
They were trained to do tricks and perform acts for people’s pleasure.
They were adored and delighted many.
A circus bear’s ability to be trained to perform in shows and playout stunts only attests to its intelligence, and some degree, a bear can be domesticated.
One might see the tattoo designs with a bear dressed up, riding a unicycle, or juggling; this portrays a circus bear with humanistic qualities.
If you are looking for a tattoo design with a funnier demeanor, a circus bear might be a great fit!
- Honey Bear Tattoos
Most people have seen the honey bear jar, but why would a person get that inked on their body?
It is no secret that bears love honey, and they spend their days hoping to stumble upon a beehive to crack open to enjoy the honeycombs.
This fact makes it only fitting for the design of a honey bottle to be of a bear.
The bear’s face on the honey squeeze bottle is cute and is appealing to children.
This could be a clever marketing tool to lure parents into choosing this honey bottle over the competition.
So if you are looking for a unique design of a bear, why not get a honey bear tattoo?
- Bear Tattoos For Women
One might think only men would get a bear tattoo because of the fierceness, but the opposite is true.
Bears are often referred to as mama bears.
A mama bear will do anything to protect their young, as many humans will do the same thing, so the bear is a great tattoo for a woman that wants to encompass that fierce but nurturing nature.
- Teddy Bear Tattoos
The teddy bear originates back to 1902 when Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt went on a hunting trip, which inspired the toy-maker, Morris Michtom, to mass-produce teddy bears.
Michtom petitioned the president to use his nickname, “Teddy,” on his bear design, to which he agreed.
The teddy bear’s popularity spread like wildfire, which prompted Michtom to find the Ideal Toy Company.
Teddy bear tattoos have been adored ever since and symbolize childhood and innocence.
So if you are looking to portray the innocence of a child or ink a small piece of history, a teddy bear tattoo is an excellent choice!
Bear Tattoo Placement
The placement of your bear tattoo depends on the scale of the bear you want.
If you are looking to make a statement and show off the details that go into the illustration of a bear, your back or thigh would be an excellent tattoo placement.
If you are looking for a less intense tattoo, maybe choose your hand or calf.
Some people choose to put these tattoos over battle scars to show perseverance.
Also, bear tattoos make great centerpieces on the chest or back.
They can be drawn quite big, so choose a spot with enough space.
This breathtaking tattoo design looks attractive regardless of where you choose to place it.
- Bear Tattoos on Forearm
If you are looking for a place on your body that will be a conversation piece and have the ability to cover up your bear tattoo if need be, your forearm is an excellent tattoo placement.
Your forearm is still ample enough space to showcase the fierce details that go along with a bear tattoo.
- Bear Tattoos On The Upper Limb
If your forearm does not entice you to place your bear tattoo because the thought of wearing long sleeves to cover it turns you off, why not travel a little bit north from there.
Your upper limb can give you a little more freedom to cover it if need be and a larger space to work with.
- Bear Chest Tattoos
Bear tattoos placed on the chest are popular, especially if you are only looking to showcase a bear claw or scratch marks across your chest.
It can be a great space to ink your bear tattoo if you want to represent strength because a chest is closely associated with power.
- Bear Tattoos on Thigh
One of the more significant body parts to portray a large tattoo would be your thigh; this is a great place to ink a bear standing.
This can showcase the sheer size of a bear.
Its long body would fit perfectly down your thigh, and you can cover it as well!
Pop Culture Bear Tattoos
Artists can design bear tattoos in many different ways.
Cartoon bears, like Care Bears tattoo and Pooh Bear tattoo, fit those who are kids at heart.
- Care Bear Tattoos
Since their 1981 debut, the Care Bears have become pop culture icons.
Care Bear tattoos are a fun idea because of how highly customizable they are.
Each bear wears a symbol of importance to them- which gives adults the opportunity for a cheeky joke.
You can also go with a classic tattoo design if you’re a child at heart.
- Pooh Bear Tattoos
Pooh Bear means a lot to so many people.
The original stories were written for children, but contain timeless wisdom that makes them worth revisiting as an adult.
Remind yourself never to grow up with a Pooh Bear tattoo design straight from the hundred-acre wood.
- Brother Bear Tattoos
Everyone has a Disney movie that resonated with them at a certain time.
For some, it’s the 2003 hit, Brother Bear.
The film deals with themes of respect for nature and brotherhood.
If the film meant something to you and your family, consider an homage to a simpler time with a Brother Bear tattoo.
- Smokey The Bear Tattoos
“Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
For people of a certain generation, this phrase is iconic.
Smokey the Bear was a character created for public outdoor education and wildfire prevention.
He was inspired by a real bear, who was rescued in a New Mexico forest fire and taken to the Smithsonian National Zoo in 1950.
If you have a nostalgic streak or work in outdoor education yourself, a Smokey the Bear tattoo is a really neat choice.
- Kanye West Bear Tattoos
The College Dropout Bear represents Kanye’s statement against societal norms.
He resisted the idea that college was the only way to become a success story, which is why he named his debut studio album The College Dropout.
But the statement isn’t just against college- it’s against norms in the rap scene.
In an industry that, quite often, runs on machismo, using a teddy bear as a mascot sets Kanye apart.
The symbol was meant to be a symbol of hope for fans, which is why College Dropout Bear tattoos are so popular.
- Yogi Bear Tattoos
Yogi Bear is a playful, long-lasting symbol in cartoon history.
Often known for his appetite and over-estimating his own intelligence, he’s a lovable goof a lot of people can relate to.
Life is short, if you’re a tattoo collector, make sure you’ve got a fun design in the mix.
- Radiohead Bear Tattoos
The Radiohead Bear seems to have two origin stories:
One, a symbol of paranoia about genetic modification, and two- a drawing for Stanley Donwood (the artist)’s child.
The truth is somewhere in the middle.
The band had been talking about genetic modification and experiments and, around the same time, Stanley thought up a story for his children.
The story was about a forgotten teddy bear who eats humans.
It all seemed to flow from there.
The Radiohead bear tattoo design has an interesting aesthetic in that it’s plain enough to be interpreted in many ways.
Radiohead fans will recognize the tattoo immediately, everyone else will just think it looks cool.
- Polo Bear Tattoos
In 1991, Ralph Lauren’s design team presented him with a gift: A teddy bear wearing Ralph Lauren’s classic polo aesthetic.
Because Lauren loved the gift so much, he began carrying the bears in his stores.
At the same time, polo wear was becoming an obsession in the world of hip hop, and with that, so did the bear.
The bright, audacious colors are a draw for rap artists, but it’s also an interesting statement on class divisions.
It’s often a symbol of the aspirational themes that run through hip hop’s core- about working hard to get what’s yours.
The bear looks innocent enough, but there’s something so much deeper to the polo bear tattoo design.
You’ll often see it on someone with a love for hip hop, way back to the beginning.
Even Kanye gives a little shout-out to the polo bear on College Dropout, continuing the legacy with his own cuddly mascot.
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