Animal designs are a hugely popular subject in tattoo culture. Of course, they have a powerful and beautiful visual impact, but they are also deeply symbolic. To celebrate our upcoming book, the Animal Reference Book we're going on a journey around the world to explore some of the cultural meanings behind popular animal tattoo designs. Read on to find out more, and preview some of the amazing illustrations featured in the Animal Reference Book.
Tigers symbolise humour, bravery and nobility in Korea, also known as 'the land of tigers'. The official national animal of South Korea is the Siberian Tiger, and tigers often appear in Korean popular culture and ancient folklore. Historically, tigers symbolised a virtuous person and were considered the strongest beast and known for their protective qualities.
The lion is known as the 'king of the beasts'. Since ancient times it's been connected to royalty and nobility in many civilisations, and lions in various positions frequently feature in heraldry. In Arab and Persian culture, the lion signifies courage, bravery, royalty and chivalry. Lions and lionesses symbolise protection and strength, and carvings and statues of lions flank important and sacred buildings worldwide.
Pig and Rooster
Sailors would tattoo a pig and a rooster on their feet for good luck and to protect them from drowning. These farmyard animals dislike water and can't swim, so they would want to find the quickest way back to the safety of the shore. Historically, they were shipped in buoyant, lightweight wooden crates and had a higher chance of surviving a shipwreck.
Swallow tattoos originated in Georgian England. Originally they were given to sailors who had sailed 5,000 nautical miles - so two swallows would indicate you had travelled 10,000 nautical miles. In the early days of sailing, this was a dangerous feat, and swallow tattoos signified an experienced and valuable crew member. Sailors adopted the swallow symbol as a talisman to ensure their safe return home as swallows return to the same nesting area and often the same nest after their annual migration.
Snakes are a beautiful and versatile choice for a tattoo design, and they have many meanings. Snakes shedding their skin is associated with a new chapter in life, healing, and transformational rebirth. People wanting to signify protection may feel a connection with cobras and rattlesnakes, who are very territorial and stand their ground to defend their home. Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, carried a staff with a snake wrapped around it, which is commonly used to signify medicine today. In this context, the snake symbolises healing and wisdom.
Interested in Learning More?
This pictorial archive is a unique collection of rare 18th and 19th-century engraving and etchings. We've curated and restored 627 beautiful high-resolution images of lions prowling, tigers fighting, pumas stalking, hyenas hunting, deer rucking, bats, snakes, bison, antelope, eagles, swallows, owls, elephants, hippopotamus, walruses, apes, monkeys, marsupials, rodents, octopus, bears, rabbits, giant anteaters plus an extensive collection of animal skeletons and so much more. We're confident this book has the animal reference material you need.
Image Download Included:
Have you ever wished you could access these images at a larger scale without having to go through the hassle of scanning each page and distorting the dimensions and image quality?
We've got you. Each book comes with a unique download link providing you with instant access to all of the digitised high-resolution print-ready files. Scale up your chosen design with ease and get back to what you do best, creating.