What does a Wolf Tattoo Mean?

What purpose does a wolf tattoo serve? Have you ever wondered what it means to have a wolf tattoo if you’re looking to get one?

Throughout history, the wolf has been always used to portray ferociousness. Such a trait aims at striking fear and showing agility. At the same time, a wolf tattoo also represents awe, resilience, or magnificence. These traits are also exhibited by lion, tiger, and dragon tattoos.

The symbol of a wolf has been widely used to depict strength and power over the years. It can also show unity, love, and loyalty amongst its bearers.

The fascination of human beings with wolves traces back to tens of thousands of years ago. It’s opined that due to certain survival needs, the two species started living together in a symbiotic relationship. And it is from these past wolf ancestors that we now have our modern-day pooches. Quite rad if you think about it, isn’t it?

Well, let’s take a peek into a brief history of the wolf ink and see some cool designs you can try out!

Meaning of a Wolf Tattoo

In all honesty, I don’t think that you could summarize the meaning of a wolf tattoo in one sitting. The animal has evolved over the years to become what we know at the moment. This means that in the near future, again, there will be a new representation of the wolf altogether.

Many human cultures have used the wolf to depict power or strength. You‘ll find this represented in literature, narratives, and everyday interactions.

It’s pretty captivating how the wolf can come out as a blood-hungry death dealer yet a loyal, family-driven creature at the same time. These two extremes are what many wolf tattoo bearers seek to represent in their artworks.

More intriguing is that wolf tattoos have been there even in the old cultures of Native Americans.

So, what does a wolf tattoo represent in modern times?

1. The wolf as a symbol of family

We know that wolves like living in packs. As a matter of fact, it is very rare to find a wolf out by itself. If you come across one in the wild, chances are that its pack is somewhere nearby.

These unified wolf packs help the animals to survive in the wild. Wolves hunting in a pack have a greater chance of succeeding than one that goes at it alone. Also, each member of the pack plays the role of a parent in raising the young pups into adulthood. This means that every member has the responsibility to feed, nurture, and protect their litter.

The close ties seen in wolf packs are something that human beings also support in their families. As human beings, we strive to develop strong family units that can give us companionship in our life’s journey.

2. The wolf as a symbol of strength

You cannot doubt the strength exhibited by wolves. These animals keep evolving thus, making them more adaptable to the harsh conditions of their habitat.

Wolves have understood the art of survival and this, in many ways, sustains their existence. As they move in their packs, they show flawless skill and intelligence. From that, you can see both strength and resilience.

People who know this special characteristic of wolves aim to portray it through a wolf tattoo.

3. As a symbol of order

A wolf tattoo can also represent order. Many people have drawn this link from the way the packs live in harmony.

There is an alpha wolf in every pack that takes the responsibility of leadership. Every member respects this leader and abides by every command given by it. The alpha is in charge of the order, discipline, and general well-being of the pack.

People who feel that they’ve mustered all their faculties may get a wolf tattoo too. They want to send a message that they are in control of every element inside them. They want to show that they have defeated chaos.

4. Representation in religion and spiritualism

In the days of ancient Christianity, people practicing the faith used to view wolves as evil. The animal was always seen as a depiction of Satan, the devil himself, and so dreaded. Whenever a wolf got sighted near human populations, the people saw it as a bad omen.

This is an interesting contrast compared to other cultures as you will see shortly below.

5. As an instrument of fear

You probably grew up fearing an encounter with a wolf. This is because of the many horror stories read to us portraying wolves as ferocious animals.

Far away from literature, real live wolves are a danger to behold. This is especially when they are on a hunting campaign. They show extreme levels of brutality when taking down their prey or fighting off intruders.

A wolf’s growl is probably all the motivation you’ll need to make you run like hell.

6. In Native America

If there’s one culture that seems to have stronger attachments to wolf symbolism, then it’s the Native Americans. The people believed that the wolf was a chosen animal that conferred the essence of the Great Spirit.

You can see how popular this belief is and how deep it runs when you look at their totem poles. The Natives believed that having the symbol of the wolf around gives them protection. They also believe that the power of the wolf brings good fortune and prosperity. That is why you come across numerous artifacts modeled after the wolf.

Some of these artifacts include bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, amongst others. What’s more, some of them were even actually made from either wolf bone, fur, or teeth.

7. Wolves in popular art and culture

In recent years, there have been more and more works of art revolving around wolves. Some of the most notable ones involve several TV productions and literary texts (storybooks).

Creatives have used wolves to represent both good and evil or light and darkness.

This is as seen in children’s stories like The 3 Little Pigs. The story portrays the wolf as an evil character that wants to eat the three little piglets.

Other films like Underworld portray werewolves, hybrids of man and wolf, as both. In the film, the werewolves are first revealed as evil breeds. As the plot develops, you see the werewolves’ good side when you realize that they’re only fighting to survive. They want to protect their kind from the threat of extinction brought about by unfair persecutions.

Some people want to show that they have balanced the light and darkness within them. So, the best way for them to communicate this is by getting wolf or werewolf tattoos.

Most popular wolf tattoo themes

There are a lot of wolf tattoo themes that you can borrow from to inspire your next artwork. Each has a unique taste and has a different type of style. I’ve outlined 10 of them below. Take a look and see which one calls out to you:

1. Celtic Wolf

A Celtic wolf artwork combines popular Celtic art and distinctive knots with a wolf image.

This wolf tattoo theme gets its inspiration from Ireland. This is because wolves were at one point an indigenous species in Ireland. And because of that, they also managed to find their way into many Celtic mythologies.

The Celtic cultures do not see wolves as threats. They see them as a symbol of guidance and protection. They also see wolves as a symbol of transformation.

2. Growling Wolf

A growling wolf shows readiness to attack or defend someone when the need arises. This theme gets its inspiration from how wolves are always keen on keeping their packs safe. The alphas won’t make decisions that may endanger the unit and will defend it from any threat.

This sense of responsibility to the weak and defenseless in a way represents bravery and nobility. It is also a good way to show honor if you belong to a specific tribe.

3. Japanese Wolf

A lot of Japanese folklore depicts wolves as protective animals. Many of their stories narrate that the wolves and their spirits always watched over travelers.

On the other hand, wolves were also considered to be messengers working for “Kami” spirits. Such wolves are always represented with bells. The bells served the role of calling “Shinto” gods in certain Japanese rituals.

You can go for the Irezumi art, the traditional, or modern style themes if you pick a Japanese wolf.

4. Howling Wolf

If you’ve ever gone camping in the woods, you’ll agree that hearing a wolf’s howl is quite an experience.

Wolves howl because of two reasons. One is to communicate to other members of the pack and the other to mark territory. The latter reason is also intended to warn intruders or other packs to stay away.

You can go for this theme if you want to communicate the same. – That you don’t fear and will protect what you love from harm.

5. Traditional Wolf

The Traditional Wolf theme is your stop if you love heavy ink and tons of color-shading tattoos. It is a perfect theme for you if you like making statements in bold ways.

The best thing with this type of wolf tattoos is that you can be as creative as you want with them. It means you can add various elements to bring out your true personality. For example, you can add flowers around the wolf to show that you have both a sweet and tough side.

You can place Traditional Wolf tattoos either at the back of your palm or the length of your sleeve.

6. Lone Wolf

Lone wolf tattoos are pretty straightforward in their meaning. Most of the time, this theme applies to loners and people who like to ride solo. It means that the wearer has no problem doing things alone.

From another perspective, a lone wolf represents a keen spirit studying things from afar. They draw their power from remaining undiscovered or mysterious.

The theme is also popular among introverts.

7. Moon and Wolf

This theme got its inspiration from the assumption that wolves only howl during full moons. Even so, it’s a fact that wolves howl more during winter months like January.

The mystic connection of the moon and wolves can represent darkness, night power, or new magic. Also, it’s one of the most popular wolf tattoos. You’ll see it on various album arts, book cover illustrations, and clothe prints.

8. Tribal Wolf

Tribal themes will always leave your tattoo with a stunning finish. That’s why wolves also look striking when drawn in a tribal print.

This type of tattoo mainly uses bold and black lines of ink to create an image in a tribal fashion. What’s more, you can use this as a base for other themes like Growling, Howling, or Lone Wolf.

9. Geometric Wolf

The Geometric Wolf theme has also gained some traction over the years – and for good reasons too! This style uses carefully laid outlines and symmetrical angles to form a fuller picture. In the end, what you’ll have is a simple tattoo with the most aesthetic sophistication.

This theme represents the purity of your core, strength, both freedom and wildness, and protection.

You can use this theme if you want to go basic and only use lines to make a picture.

10. Wolf Skull

The Wolf Skull theme is a great representation of the calm, grace, and beauty that stays with a wolf even in death.

Despite its gothic look, a wolf skull symbolizes a peaceful desire to appreciate the solitude in death. That’s why many samples you come across only show one drawn skull. It is a successive symbol of the Lone Wolf’s destiny through life and death.

Design examples of wolf tattoos

After picking your theme, you can also choose a design to use to bring out your message. Some of the top designs you can use are:

Abstract Wolf Design

Abstract designs allow you to merge different stories into a single tattoo. You can use a variety of colors, patterns, styles, and any wolf theme to symbolize your message.

Graphic Wolf Design

This borrows the concepts of geometry to draw the wolf tattoo. The inkwork involves a lot of precision to deliver a final powerful and graphic artwork.

Simple Wolf Design

This entails using only simple, continuous lines to draw your wolf tattoo. The resulting work shows grace, simple majesty, and a delicate art design.

Illustrative Wolf Design

This design creates an intense picture riddled with profound details showing deep stories. Often, there’s a lot of inking, layering, shading, outlining, and colorwork involved.

Realistic Wolf Design

This design represents the highest form of the art of tattooing. The final work will incorporate details like drawing over specific body parts and skin to reveal a life-like final image. It brings out the realistic details of a wolf including its fur, teeth, eyes, muscles, and perspective.

Types of wolves you may consider for your tattoo

Here are a few examples of wolves that you can pick when settling for your next ink job. They include:

  • Black Wolf
  • White Wolf
  • Timber Wolf
  • Gray Wolf
  • Arctic Wolf

Which one of the above do you feel represents your spirit?


As you’ve seen, a wolf tattoo meaning can represent a lot of things. All this depends on the theme, design, and even the type of wolf you want.

You can get a wolf tattoo to show strength, purity of heart, intelligence, or loyalty to the people you love. You can also use themes like the Growling Wolf to show that you’re ready to protect the weak.

What’s your favorite wolf tattoo?

Feel free to share with me your ideas in the Comments Section below!

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