Bear Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Bears have a multilayered and enduring significance in human culture and mythology. It’s no surprise that bear tattoos hold a deep fascination for the purveyors of human body art. The tattoos are often an expression of reverence. 

Human fascination with bear tattoos stems from religious beliefs associated with bears and their habitats. The significance of different bear tattoos can, however, span a wide range of interpretations.

The Meaning of Bear Tattoos 

Bear tattoos express a wide range of meanings. This is due to the different kinds of bears found on different continents and habitats. The dominantly majestic form of the polar bear is distinctly different from the cuddly cuteness of Australasian Koala. 

Here are the major meanings expressed by different kinds of bear tattoos:

Homage to the Warrior Spirit

Across different cultures, the bear is the guardian of the warrior spirit. Such tattoos usually represent the form of the larger bears. Both grizzly and polar bears can depict the warrior totem. 

Good Luck Charms

In some native religions and myths, bears are associated with good luck and fortune. This belief has spawned a body art culture where people get tattoos depicting various bears as good luck charms. People in some cultures believe that a bear tattoo can ward off bad omens and poor luck.

The bear most associated with good luck and warding off bad omens is the Chinese panda. The placid black and white bear offers calmness of the spirit. This characteristic contrasts with the traditional perception of bears as aggressive beasts. 

Symbol of Completeness and Wholesomeness

Some bears receive reverence for their representation of the completeness and balance in life. The Chinese panda is again distinctive in this respect. In many oriental cultures, the panda is the natural personification of the perfect balance.


In some native cultures, the great bears are the embodiment of protective Gods. They not only stand guard to ward off evil but protect people and communities against aggressive adversaries. 

Communities that most often associate bears with protective abilities are those who reside in the northern climes. It would be natural to assume that these communities have grown to associate these massive hunters with aggression. The fact is, they have usually viewed these animals as protectors. 

Inspiration and Guidance in Life

Many native cultures consider some great bears as the symbols of ultimate guidance and inspiration. Native communities living in and around the Arctic Circle are the ones who mostly coin this association with polar bears. 

In Inuit culture, the majestic polar bear is a physical representation of the eternal God Torngarsuk. This inspiring association has seeped into the modern tattoo culture. 

Many people also associate polar bear tattoos with the bear constellation in the celestial sky. The bear constellation includes the North star revered by many native cultures as an embodiment of eternal guidance in life. 

Healing and Renewal

Bears living in highly temperate regions have beliefs of mythical powers about healing, renewal, and even resurrection. It comes from the bears’ ability to hibernate the depths of winter only to emerge in spring. For native people, this ability was nothing short of resurrection from the world of the dead.

A Mark of Bravery and Confidence

The bear stands tall as the bravest and most awe-inspiring of land-based predators. This has inspired legends and myths in different cultures. People have always looked to project the same sort of confident demeanor as represented by the great bears. 

The Most Popular Bear Tattoo Designs

Bear tattoos come in different guises and design variations. Even within a particular variation, tattoo artists add their interpretations and twists to personalize the designs further. 

Here are some common tattoo designs to pick from:

The Feral Bear Tattoo

This variation of the bear tattoo can take a variety of forms. Often it depicts a snarling bear, sometimes with claws extended. Such an image “jumps out” at the observer.

Common Colors and Color Combinations

Using a monotone color or shade is the usual fare when depicting a feral bear tattoo. The best ink color to bring out the best of a feral bear tattoo is black. If some emphasis is required, an additional lighter shade is ideal. 

Placement Suggestions

The tattoos are usually large and prominent. They appear at their feral best when tattooed on the chest, though some prefer it on the forearm. 

Bear Paw Prints

Bear paw prints are another bear tattoo variant that has caught the popular imagination. People who often opt for the bear paw tattoo are artistic types. The tattoos usually symbolize power, stability, good luck and adaptability. 

Common Colors and Color Combinations

Bear paw print tattoos are minimalist by design. Tattoo artists opt to use one uniform color to ink them. The exception is if the tattoo is personalized by the addition of a name, date or anecdote. 

Placement Suggestions

Because it’s usually simple and small in size, a bear paw print tattoo can be placed on any area of the skin. The tattoos are located on the inner arm, near the inner wrist, on the foot and above the belly button. 

Bear Claws and Scratch Marks

The image of a bear paw, claws extended and the scratch marks as evidence of an attack are strongly evocative. Native folklore has played a big part in preserving the chilling image down the eons. Worn as tattoos, bear claws and scratch marks are often an expression of fierce disposition, vengeance and intensity. 

Common Colors and Color Combinations

If the tattoo includes scratch marks, the tattoo artist may use crimson or another shade of red to represent them. Otherwise, the tattoo appears in one uniform dark shade. 

Placement Suggestions

A bear claw and scratch mark tattoo appears at its most natural on the chest. You can also have it inked on the upper arm and shoulder. 

Teddy Bear Tattoos

The adorable teddy bear has a magnetic endearment to people of all cultures and traditions. Teddy bear tattoos are associated with unspoiled innocence and childhood. There are variations of the tattoo that depict affection, love and endearment. 

Common Colors and Color Combinations

Teddy bear tattoos should project a sense of warmth and calmness. As such, inking them in warm color tones adds a measure of authenticity. The tonal colors can be red, green or even orange. 

Placement Suggestions

You can get a teddy bear tattoo on any part of the body. The most preferred locations are around the tummy, lower back, above the hip bone or the inner arm. 

Haida Bear Tattoos

The Haida are Native American people who live in Alaska and parts of British Columbia in Canada. The bear tattoos of the Haida people represent strength, wisdom and cosmic wellness. 

Common Colors and Color Combinations

Traditional Haida tattoos are often black with elements of red and green. Modern tattoo artists keep to this tradition but can opt for similar color choices as alternatives. 

Placement Suggestions

You can sport a Haida bear tattoo on the neck, shoulder blades or the side of your ribcage. 

Celtic Bear Tattoos

Celtic bear tattoos have roots in the Celtic cultural tradition that was widespread on the British Isles eons ago. They are associated with pagan cultures and a connection with nature and the basic elements. The tattoos depict a more abstract interpretation of body art as opposed to a more realistic approach. 

Common Colors and Color Combinations

The Celtic bear tattoo bears a lot of resemblance to other forms of Celtic body art. Among these is the use of one cool or dark color to ink them on the skin. 

Placement Suggestions

The Celtic bear tattoo will look natural on the upper arm or the shoulder blades. You can also have it on the shin or calf of your leg. 

Cartoon Bear Tattoos

There’s no shortage of cartoon bear characters to offer inspiration for tattoo artists. Winnie the Pooh is perhaps the most popular cartoon bear, but Ted, Paddington, Yogi, Baloo and others have also become fun choices. 

Common Colors and Color Combinations

The tattoo artist will attempt to make the cartoon appear as close to the popular culture version as possible. This may involve the use of two or more colors. 

Placement Suggestions

To place a bear tattoo at its most advantageous spot, choose a part of the body that is conspicuous and prominent. A cartoon bear tattoo is rarely inked on an area of the body covered by clothing. You can also choose the wrist, the neck or the back of the arm as a location.

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