A tiger can’t change its stripes, but you might be able to add some to your sleeve.
Tiger tattoos are popular with all gender identities. Most tiger tattoos are done in the traditional art styles of India, China, and Japan.
This is due to the great amount of symbolism the tiger holds in these countries.
The big cats have been transported elsewhere for show, but they have their roots in Asia.
They’ve been immortalized in art, sculpture and tattoo for years.
Some animal enthusiasts will choose a less stylized tiger, opting for a tiger portrait tattoo instead.
Across all styles, tigers are one of the most commonly requested animal tattoos.
No matter the aesthetic, there are a number of reasons why a person may want to pay tribute to their favorite big cat.
With their majestic beauty and deadly claws, it’s no surprise this ancient fascination has extended into the modern-day.
The history of tiger tattoos is a long one, so let’s dive right in.
Celebrities with Tiger Tattoos
When it comes to modern tattoo trends, celebrities are leading the charge.
Big cats are always welcome in pop culture, and some of our favorite inked up celebrities have chosen them as their animal alter egos.
Angelina Jolie Tiger Tattoo
When other actresses didn’t get inked, she did.
Angelina is known for her vast collection of tattoos.
And our friend the tiger didn’t get left out.
In recognition of her charitable work, Jolie was granted Cambodian citizenship in 2005.
To celebrate, she got a tiger back piece done in the traditional hand poke style.
The artist blessed the piece with a chant, solidifying her connection with the culture.
Kesha Tiger Tattoo
After a long legal battle following traumatic experiences with her former manager, Kesha got a tiger tattoo.
The piece, appearing on her left hand, is done in traditional “old school style.”
She had it done by Los Angeles artist Derrick Snodgrass but hasn’t offered much in the way of an explanation.
On the pop star’s Instagram post featuring the tattoo, she has simply captioned the piece “fuckin meow.”
Tigers are said to represent strength, so perhaps the piece gave her comfort and courage during a difficult time.
Adam Levine Tiger Tattoo
The Maroon 5 singer takes pride in flaunting his sexual prowess, so it’s no surprise he got a tiger tattoo on his right arm.
There’s something very sexy about the image of a tiger- it has a slow, graceful way of moving but it’s fierce and raw when the moment calls for it.
True to this dichotomy, many of Levine’s songs, despite being love songs, have violent themes in them.
He’s also been accused of being a narcissist, and apparently a preoccupation with predators can be indicative of this personality type.
Joe Exotic Tiger Tattoo
As the viral reality star of 2020, Joe Exotic’s fleeting fame is inspiring permanent decisions.
The exotic cat owner turned felon has a tiger’s head tattooed on his chest.
After seeing the show, many people were inspired to get their own Tiger King inspired art.
In the age of Instagram and viral content, tiger tattoos have their own symbolism. But the history of tiger tattoos is a long one.
Anyone can get a tiger tattoo, but it’s nice to have an understanding of the history behind them.
As with any tattoo, blending personal meaning with ancient mythology makes for a powerful combination.
Tiger Symbolism in India
80% of the Indian population belongs to the Hindu religion.
Many Hindu people choose a vegetarian diet because the religion is so respectful of animals.
To avoid the suffering of any living things is to be more pure of body and mind.
Legend has it that Brahma, the creator, gave each animal their own spiritual secret.
This secret was meant to be recognized by humans, so they would see the animal’s divine nature.
It is also a belief in Hinduism that humans are reincarnated, and some animals may carry the soul of your departed family members.
Though all animals have their degree of divinity, within the group there are special creatures. One such creature is the Tiger.
The Bengal Tiger is the official animal of India, known both for its grace and ferocity.
They contain both gentle and violent characteristics, making them a truly majestic creature.
The Goddess Durga
Tigers in Hinduism are often associated with the goddess Durga, who embodies the quintessential divine feminine archetype.
Durga tattoo designs are depicting the goddess riding either a lion or a tiger.
In this context, the tiger symbolizes power beyond limits.
This is a power used to protect all that is pure and virtuous and conquer evil.
Durga is a maternal figure, but she is also a goddess of war.
She protects her people, much like a tiger who is beautiful and graceful but wild and ferocious.
Do you have a duality within you like the tiger, or the goddess Durga?
Durga and Tiger Tattoos
There is a level of reverence toward tigers in India, but there is also a complicated history with the animal.
Though the basic tenets of Hinduism involve living in harmony with animals, for some time they were hunted in India.
Because tigers were considered so regal, it became something of a regal hobby to hunt tigers and collect their pelts.
Tiger hunting was practiced in 1875, and became very popular in the 1950’s. In 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi outlawed tiger hunting.
By then, the number of slain tigers was in the hundreds of thousands.
Seen in this light, a tiger tattoo may be the ultimate symbol of survival.
They have the agility to bob and weave through turbulent times with the brutality to conquer obstacles.
Tigers in China
Were you born in 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, or 2010? Do you have a 2022 baby planned?
These are the years of the tiger in the Chinese Zodiac. Maybe a tiger tattoo is in order!
The legend has it that when the jade emperor was choosing the animals for the zodiac, the ox and the rat were first in line because they were dedicated to getting up early that day.
The tiger was third because of its speed.
In China, tiger year people are considered lively and adventurous, expressive and rebellious. They are natural leaders, but can be hot-headed.
Tigers are ferocious in Chinese legends, but only toward enemies and evil spirits.
Much like the tigers in Indian mythology, they protect good people with their strength, but are merciless with evil.
What Makes the Tiger Special in China?
The tiger is revered in China because of the markings on its forehead.
The stripes on the tiger’s face are thought to resemble the Chinese character “王” or Wang, meaning King.
As in India, it belongs to a special class of divine creatures. Because of this, tigers are depicted in a lot of traditional Chinese art.
Many people choose a Chinese art style for their tiger tattoos.
The Dragon & Tiger
Tiger & dragon imagery is often seen throughout the home in China for their protective properties and the balance they bring to each other.
An old Chinese proverb states that Dragons will conjure clouds while tigers call forth the wind.
Though this is turbulent imagery, rain can be a blessing.
The tiger and dragon team are seen as the ultimate rulers of the skies.
Their opposing nature means together, they bring harmony between opposites.
Dragon and Tiger Tattoos
Are you an ambivalent person?
Do you have two sides to your personality?
Maybe a dragon and tiger tattoo would be well suited to you.
Chinese Tigers as a Symbol of Wealth
In Taoism and Chinese folk religion, tigers are often associated with the god of wealth. His name is Caishen.
He will often come up in Lunar New Year celebrations, especially on the 5th day.
He rides a black tiger and can turn stone or iron into gold. People will light incense for Caishen to try and get in his good books.
The White Tiger in China
White tigers are also considered an auspicious sign in China.
The white tiger is considered the guardian of the Western skies.
The white tiger shares this guardian duty with 3 other shijin, or beasts of mythological significance.
Each of them controls an earthly element and season.
The white tiger represents wind, metal, and autumn.
It is also ruled by the planet Venus.
According to legend, when a tiger lives for 500 years it turns into a god, causing it to transform into a white tiger.
This can only happen in a prosperous kingdom with a virtuous empire.
The white tiger is honored by women on the second moon of the lunar calendar.
Because of this, however, the “white tiger” has also become slang for female genitalia.
So if you are thinking of getting a white tiger tattoo, you may get a few second looks or snickers in certain areas of the world.
White Tiger Tattoos
Tiger Symbolism in Japan
The Japanese have their own version of the zodiac, but it has the same basic framework as in the Chinese model.
In Japanese art and Japanese tattoo culture, the tiger symbolizes strength and courage.
It can also provide protection from bad luck and evil spirits.
Japanese Samurai Tigers
Japan’s tattoo world has a complicated history.
Criminals used to have tattoos as a form of punishment, so there is a negative stigma around the art-form.
Tattoos can also be associated with the Yakuza. To put it in Western terms, the Yakuza is like the Japanese mafia.
But the noble Samurai of Japan’s history are an exception.
They got tattoos in an effort to keep their identities.
Because a Samurai’s armor was quite valuable, it was often stolen from their bodies after a battle.
To keep themselves identifiable, the Samurai got tattoos.
This way, if they needed to be buried, their families would be able to do it properly.
In ancient Japanese customs, the burial is essential. Without a traditional burial, a Samurai can not ascend into the afterlife.
Samurai often opted for tiger tattoos and there are a couple of reasons for that.
On the battlefield, the tiger would give them strength and courage for the fight.
If they died in battle, the tiger would protect their spirit in the afterlife.
You may not be a Samurai, but having a tiger tattoo may give you a burst of confidence in your personal battles.
Choose an original design that speaks to you, and let it enhance your identity.
Samurai Tiger Tattoos
Japanese Traditional Tiger Tattoos
Tigers in Korean Culture
Tigers are predominant in Korean folk-art.
At one time, Korea’s mountains were home to so many tigers, the country was known as “land of tigers.”
Naturally, the animal made an impact and continues to do so.
They are ingrained into the culture from the earliest legends in Korean history.
The Legend of Dangun
In the legend of Dangun, the Lord of Heaven (Hwanin) allows his son (Hwanung) to visit earth.
Upon his arrival, a bear and tiger ask Hwanung to make them into humans. The son of heaven gave them each garlic and mugwort.
He told them to eat only these foods for 100 days, and to avoid sunlight.
The tiger gives up on this quest and opts to stay a tiger.
The bear becomes a human woman and gives birth to a child through divine intervention.
Symbolism of Tigers in Korea
Despite the tiger’s failure to carry out its task, the animal is revered in Korea.
The symbolism behind the animal is slightly different than in other Asian cultures.
In Korea, a tiger can represent protection, but also messages from the divine.
They are also seen as trickster characters, possibly due to their dual nature.
Divine tricksters exist in many cultures and serve to wake people out of their every day.
They expose “normal” for the illusion that it is.
Though Korean peoples embrace tiger imagery, tigers themselves were hunted there.
By the middle of the 20th century, the beasts had all but disappeared in the area they once called home.
From an animal rights angle, a tiger tattoo could be your promise to see animals as more than a symbol.
You could turn tiger symbolism from protector to protected. An interesting idea!
Korean Tiger Tattoos
Tigers in American Pop Culture
Despite the fact that a real tiger could easily kill a man, their stripey coats make them pretty cute.
If your tiger tattoo has an American influence, you may want something more cartoonish.
Here are a few examples of tame tigers in American media:
Hobbes Tiger Tattoos
In the famous comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, a stuffed tiger comes to life in a little boy’s imagination.
To everyone else, Hobbes is a plaything.
To Calvin, he is a mentor, a brother figure, someone to go on adventures with.
Hobbes is often Calvin’s voice of reason, serving as his conscience.
Tigger Tiger Tattoos
Another living childhood toy, Tigger is one of Christopher Robin’s toys.
Again, he comes to life only in the mind of a young Christopher Robin.
Tigger fits the Korean symbolism of a tiger in that he’s a bit of a trickster.
He is unpredictable, unreliable, but undeniably fun to have around.
Tigger bounces on his tail, acts silly, and never runs out of energy.
Tawky Tawny Tiger
From the sillier side of the DC Universe, Tawky Tawny is a friend to Captain Marvel.
After turning from a toy (sensing a theme here?) to a humanoid tiger, he tries to blend in with American society.
Though Tawky Tawny is refined and well dressed, people fear him because… well, wouldn’t you?
Captain Marvel has to put out a lot of fires when his friend Tawky Tawny is in town.
Looking for something modern and cartoonish in a new school style?
There are many fun American tiger characters to choose from!
Main Themes in Tiger Tattoos
Wolf & Tiger Tattoos
Snake & Tiger Tattoos
Roaring Tiger Tattoos
Baby Tiger Tattoos
Crawling Tiger Tattoos
Tiger Tattoo Designs
Many tiger tattoos are done in a traditional Japanese or American old school style.
But why not switch it up a little? Tigers don’t belong to one sacred tradition, so they are up for grabs with interpretation.
Talk to your tattoo artist about why you want a tiger tattoo and what they represent for you.
You’ll probably be able to put together something really interesting as a team.
Something you never would have thought of on your own!
Whether you’re a Bengal tiger or a Talky Tawny, there’s a tiger tattoo that will suit your stripes.
Still not sure? Check out our tiger tattoo gallery for some majestic inspiration.
Realistic Black and Grey Tattoos
American Traditional Tiger Tattoos
Black-work Tiger Tattoos
Graphic Tiger Tattoos
Single Needle Tiger Tattoos
Realistic Tiger Tattoos
Stick & Poke Tattoos
Neo-traditional Tiger Tattoos
Watercolor Tiger Tattoos
New School Tattoos
Tribal Tiger Tattoos
Rectangular Tiger Tattoos
Geometric Tiger Tattoos
Neo-Japanese Tiger Tattoos
Illustrative Tiger Tattoos
One Line Tattoos
Trash Polka Tiger Tattoos
Contemporary Tiger Tattoos
Tiger Tattoo Ideas
Black & Grey Tiger Tattoos
Small Tiger Tattoos
Simple Tiger Tattoos
Sleeve Tiger Tattoos
Ornamental Tiger Tattoos
Saber-toothed Tiger Tattoos
Large Tiger Tattoos
Tiger Tattoos on Arm
Tiger Tattoos on the Upper Arm
Tiger Tattoos on Forearm
Tiger Tattoos on Chest
Tiger Tattoos on Shoulder
Tiger Tattoo Artists
Jose Miguel Duque
Mark Gan Tattoo
- Lion Tattoos
- Eagle Tattoos
- Wolf Tattoos
- Phoenix Tattoos
- Hummingbird Tattoos
- Bear Tattoos
- Skull Tattoos
- Panther Tattoos
- Butterfly Tattoos
- Cat Tattoos
- Octopus Tattoos
- Hourglass Tattoos
- Compass Tattoos
- Arrow Tattoos
- Ouroboros Tattoos
Tiger Tattoos FAQ
The Bengal Tiger is the official animal of India, known both for its grace and ferocity. They contain both gentle and violent characteristics, making them a truly majestic creature.
In China, tiger year people are considered lively and adventurous, expressive and rebellious. They are natural leaders, but can be hot-headed. Tigers are ferocious in Chinese legends, but only toward enemies and evil spirits. Much like the tigers in Indian mythology, they protect good people with their strength, but are merciless with evil.
In Japanese art and Japanese tattoos, the tiger symbolizes strength and courage.
It can also provide protection from bad luck and evil spirits.