(includes Cheetah, Jaguar and Panther tattoos)
Spotted any good leopard tattoos? All puns aside, the leopard is the basis for some of the wildest tattoos symbolizing the wild kingdom.
The leopard falls into a category known as the Lesser Great Cats (which differ from the King Cats, i.e. lion and tiger), and is an animal much revered in several cultures.
The ancient Greek god Dionysus wore skins of the animal, which he referred to as the “all-beast,” and Egyptians depicted Osiris as a crouching leopard.
In Africa, the leopard was considered a symbol of courage, cruelty, and of untamed instincts – and no royal outfit was complete without a leopard skin adornment. Because the spots of the leopard resemble eyes, several ancient cultures referred to the beast as the ‘Great Watcher.”
In Christian art and lore the leopard is less revered. It is one of the great creatures Daniel saw in a vision, and is often used as a symbol for nations with whom Christianity was at war. Artists sometimes used the leopard as a symbol of sin, the devil, or the anti-Christ. It was occasionally shown as a traveling companion of the Three Wise Men/Kings who visited the baby Jesus, as a symbol of the outside world’s need for redemption.
In dream interpretation, the leopard is a symbol of enemies or, if running, illness. If you simply see a leopard in your dream, it is said that you will overcome your rival with ease. If you actually have to kill the leopard in your dream, a real life struggle will ensue.
Jaguar, Cheetah and Black Panther Tattoos
The leopard is similar to, and often confused with, similar larger animals such as the jaguar, cheetah, and panther. One needs to be a little careful when choosing these great cats for a tattoo, because what you ask for and what you get may vary between cultures. For example, the term panther is used synonymously in North America to refer to a cougar, while the term refers to a jaguar in South America. And if you ask for a leopard tattoo in the mountain regions in Asia, you might get the smaller white-coated snow leopard (also known as “ounce”) instead of the big African cat you seek.
Not only do the names differ, but the design of the coats differs as well. This is important for a tattoo artist to know. The leopard pattern is the most distinguishable and most recreated in tattoo art – some people get the actual cat tattooed on them, while others (especially women) just get the pattern tattooed on them so that their skin looks like the animal. The leopard’s spots are actually more like circles with a thick border and clear center. The border is generally broken up, so the circle is composed of three or four dashes. As the spots get smaller (e.g. near the leopards neck, or the near the neck or lower back of someone with tattooed spots), they look more horseshoes, and eventually become solid dots.
The jaguar is a slightly larger and more dangerous cat, whose name roughly translates to “the beast that can kill its prey in a single leap.” Its spots look very similar to the leopard’s, but also include small dots inside the circle borders. Jaguar spots are also less uniform in nature, and spaced further apart, making the overall pattern appear less fluid.
Finally, the cheetah – the sleekest of the crew and the fastest runner of the bunch – has completely solid spots. Unless you really want a cheetah tattoo, stay away from this pattern, as you’ll look polka-dotted as a result.
Interestingly, the spotted African Leopard and the black African Panther is actually the same animal – just the pigmentation varies. Black panthers (and black jaguars) actually have black spots; they just don’t show up well against the almost equally black background of the skin.
The black panther (in addition to being the name of a group of militants most notorious in 1960’s America) is often associated with martial arts forms such as Kung Fu. The panther is actually not interpreted as a fighter, per se, but a strategist. Those with the panther tattoo symbol are expected to be stealthy, cunning, and clever.
With the rise in popularity of solid black and tribal tattooing, the black panther has become the symbol of choice for many. Its sleek body accentuates the natural curves and muscle tone of the human body, and the darkness of the coat conveys a sense of strength, danger, and even passion.
Whether you go with spots or a solid panther tattoo design, the leopard tattoo will definitely bring out the animal in you.
For more information on Leopard tattoos, Black Panther tattoos and Animal tattoos, see the resources listed on our
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