The Symbolism Behind Bear Tattoos

Polar Bear And Woman Tattoo @gingerstattoos

If you go down to the woods today, while you may not stumble upon a teddy bear’s picnic, you might just find an actual bear. North American forests include black bears, grizzly bears, and even spirit bears. Further afield, different species of bears can be found in Asia and Europe. 

These are amazing animals that demand respect. Bears have extraordinary navigating skills and excellent memories. Also, bears are fiercely protective of their family, and will even put themselves in danger to save a cub or a sibling. 

Bears and their impressive skills have entrenched themselves in many cultures across the world, and as such have deep symbolism attached to them. 

Mushroom Bear Thigh Tattoo @pazurmazur

Viking Bear Tattoo

The Vikings had their heyday during the 9th to 11th centuries when they raided, traded, and explored parts of Europe, America, and Asia. 

While they were seafaring people, their fascinating mythology had deep roots in their Scandanavian homeland. 

Two of the most notorious and important gods in Old Norse mythology, Odin and his son Thor, would come to earth disguised as bears. 

Viking Bear Tattoo @kevin_molinatattoo

The word “berserker” comes from the Viking age. Old Norse berserkr means “bearskin” and references warriors who worshipped Odin and were known for their savagery in battle.

If you want a distinctive Viking look to your bear tattoo, you could include other elements such as Viking rune symbols.

“Runes are a form of Norse insignias that are believed to have mysterious magical powers. They come in many different variations, dependent upon what type of energy you are trying to harvest,”


A Viking bear tattoo can be a representation of supreme strength and courage.

Forest Bear Tattoo @norapruyser

Native American Bear Tattoo

The bear has strong symbolism across many First Nations of the American continent.

“Most Native American tribes revere the bear. Like the turtle, each tribe’s cultural view of the bear varies; however, at the core, the bear represents authority, good medicine, courage, and strength. The bear is said to be a healer and protector,”

Native Hope

The black bear has a cousin known as the spirit bear. These are a variety of black bears that did not get the black dress code memo and instead have very pale fur.

“The First Nations communities that have lived in the region for thousands of years call the spirit bear moskgm’ol, which simply means ‘white bear’, and view the animal as sacred.”

Discover Wildlife
Sketch Bear Tattoo

Grizzly Bear Tattoo

Across cultures, bears are associated with the warrior spirit. One specific bear that this particularly relates to is the grizzly bear. In fact, in some North American cultures, the grizzly bear is known as a guide for warriors to lead them into the afterlife. 

This species of bear is also one of the largest territorial mammals on the planet; they are aggressively protective of what is theirs. They are also incredibly strong and skilled when it comes to hunting. 

Taking all of this into account, a tattoo of a grizzly bear can represent strength, protection, bravery, and a warrior’s spirit.

Mother Bear And Cub Tattoo @ta_terka_

Bear And Cubs Tattoo

Bears can be fiercely protective mothers. In fact, according to, female brown bears have been known to raise their cubs closer to humans in order to lessen the chance of a male bear killing their young – treating an enemy of their enemy as a shield. This not only illustrates the protective nature of brown bears but also their intelligence. 

So, if you want a tattoo dedicated to family and motherhood, a mama bear surrounded by her cute cubs could be a perfect inspiration.

Small Panda Bear Tattoo @4utattoo.bucharest

Panda Bear Tattoo

Panda bear designs are on the more unique side of the tattoo spectrum. These super cute cuddly animals hail from China and have had a rough go of it over the last few centuries until very recently. While they were close to extinction for a long time, the panda is now a symbol of conservation success as they are no longer endangered.

When it comes to symbolism, a tattoo of a panda bear can mean completeness.

“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.”

Authority Tattoo

This is echoed in the fact that pandas are black and white, sharing this contrast with the ancient Yin and Yang symbol. 

According to Tat Ring, a panda bear tattoo can also represent tranquility, peace, optimism, and good fortune.

Tiny Teddy Bear Tattoo @mattynoir

Teddy Bear Tattoo

Despite their slightly terrifying appearance and nature, the look of bears was translated into the beloved teddy bear over a century ago.

“On February 15, 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy.”

Roosevelt agreed, and teddy bears have become a staple in many children’s toy boxes. 

Small Teddy Bear Arm Tattoo @hanabanaanaa

A tattoo of a teddy bear can represent nostalgia for childhood, and memorialize a favorite childhood companion.

This bear tattoo choice is a far cry from the outward strength and power of a depiction of a grizzly bear. However, a teddy bear can have its own version of these characteristics – the strength to overcome challenges while still remaining soft. 

Grizzly Bear Tattoo

There is deep symbolism attached to bears, and if you are looking for a meaningful tattoo, this forest-dwelling mammal could be the ideal inspiration for you. From strength and warrior prowess to the powerful love of a mother, bears are multifaceted and represent important aspects of the human condition.

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