Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.
Wolf tattoos are very popular and considered to be a mainstream tattoo. They can be designed in a variety of different ways and portrayed with different elements and symbols. Just like all animal tattoos, the wolf tattoo represents traits and attributes of the wolf.
In this article, we will discuss wolf tattoo designs. We will also review their meanings and you will have the opportunity to view many photos. We hope that you are able to find inspiration for your next tattoo.
A hungry wolf at all the herd will run, In hopes, through many, to make sure of one.
— William Congreve
A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf.
— George R.R. Martin
The History, Meaning, and Associations of the Wolf Tattoo
The wolf is a very symbolic creature that holds deep meaning for many different cultures throughout history, most notably with Native Americans. To numerous tribes across North America and in other parts of the world, wolves are very powerful and important.
Wolves have survived in harsh locations for tens of thousands of years. They are intelligent and skillful hunters who rarely hunt alone (unless they have been cast out of the pack). Wolves live and hunt in packs, which are tight-knit family groups that increase their chances of survival.
The wolf plays a part in mythology, literature, movies, legends, and stories like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs." Werewolves are also a part of our collective consciousness, depicted in many young adult and fantasy novels and seen in shows like MTV's "Teen Wolf." The werewolf (half human and half man) was also portrayed in Roman mythology, as in the story of Romulus and Remus. Whether portrayed as good or evil, wolves are always powerful, and the same can be said about a wolf tattoo.
Native Americans viewed the wolf as a totem animal or spirit sent to help guide us through life, symbolizing loyalty and perseverance. In legends, the wolf had great powers given by the Great Spirit. Wolves also had the power to change into people.
Like most predators, the wolf is often seen as an evil creature. Ancient Christians said the wolf was a symbol of Satan, and thus a bad omen. Today, probably because humans have fewer interactions with wolves, they no longer fear wolves so much.
Wolves are strongly associated with family. Because they live and hunt in packs, they have survived. The pack also gives them a territorial advantage against other predators. A wolf will only mate with one partner while the pair is alive. Because they mate for life, and because the whole pack will help take care of the pups, wolves are also known as caring parents. Thus a wolf tattoo can symbolize tight family bonds.
There's always the hyena of morality at the garden gate, and the real wolf at the end of the street.
— D. H. Lawrence
Wolf Tattoo Meanings
Wolf Tattoo: Meanings and Designs
The wolf tattoo is a great way to display loyalty and devotion to family. Some people have their entire "pack" of loved ones inked or get a single wolf paw tattoo and have names of loved ones inked inside the design.
The wolf tattoo can also represent love. A tattoo can show a pair of powerful yet calm and gentle wolves. Some people try to give such tattoos a cute look by adding hearts: This could be done with a heart in the background or heart-shaped clouds. Just like in family designs, the name of the loved one is often used.
One of the most popular designs depicts a wolf howling in front of a full moon. In ancient legends and even today, bad things are usually associated with a wolf when the moon is full. Since the wolf is often associated with the dark, it is believed to be a symbol of dark things, but it doesn't have to; it can be associated with the joy of running and playing in the moonlight. Remember, your tattoo symbolizes what you want it to.
There are many different styles of design that you can choose:
- Native American
And many different ways to depict the wolf:
- Howling Wolf
- Wolf Paw Prints
- Blue-Eyed Wolf
- Snarling Wolf
- Wolf Skull
There are also a variety of different types of wolves to consider:
- Arctic Wolf
- Timber Wolf
- Black Wolf
- Red Wolf
- Gray Wolf
- White Wolf
There are many things you can do to enhance and personalize your tattoo. Wolves can be portrayed with other animals such as bears, eagles, deer, bison, or owls. They might also be associated with trees, the moon, mountains, snow, rocks, or water. The wolf is often associated with Native American symbols as well, such as feathers and dreamcatchers. Many people feel that the extra symbols in the tattoo make it look better. However, that is your choice to make.
Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It's just a different wolf.
— Alfred Hitchcock
Lobo Luna Winterpaw on February 04, 2020:
I have for my first tattoo a tribal wolf head howling at the moon but i have added color to the wolf part of my tattoo, my partner of 8yrs was just Diagnosed with terminal cancer Trying to put a tattoo together in memory of him before he leaves I'm looking at a full body of a Wolf on my left shoulder on my back but I'm looking for adding a dream catcher to it with maybe a saying of some sort or I'm looking into a Wolf how seen worse the outline of the wolfhead howling but the scene is a wooded scene and the side of a Hill with the rain coming down on a big bear just looking for thoughts if I should do that in color which one I should probly do and if I should just do a black-and-white or something any comment would be great
Pablo on June 22, 2019:
I like the Wolf for me Is like somthing important in m'y life ô dont Know why I did à tattoo of à Wolf ans I want an other..
Alex on April 15, 2019:
i need ideas
Feona Garcia on October 09, 2018:
I choose this tattoo as my spirit animal. Its powerful, fearless and family. I love 'em. Thanks for the article
Tsukiko on August 28, 2018:
What about wolves with horses? I had recently gotten a tattoo a few years ago of a brilliant black stallions full head right beside a white wolf's head. The wolf(although not completely shaded white, the artist said it would be a bit bad to do that) has blue eyes, and the horse, as said before is black with a diamond star on its forehead. It has brown eyes. I never truly thought of what it could mean, especially since it's a bit different from the original design I spotted online where the horse was brown. But these were two animals I loved, ones that are beautiful and strong.
shay dorizac on May 16, 2018:
hello, i just recently browsed through your page and saw a lot of interesting tattoos. my birthday is coming up in 3 weeks and i was wondering if someone could draw me an alpha wolf with blue eyes above his pack symbolizing protection over his family if someone could do that for me that would be great, send it to my gmail firstname.lastname@example.org thank you.
Amy on April 09, 2017:
I love to draw tattoos and I'm also an artist, this is the first time I've came across your website, I've recently drawn one for a friend of my mine for his b-day, I've always been into tattoo designing and I always enter into art shows, I do paintings,metalsmith jewelry, and drawings, but I design tattoos on the side, I just love them. I don't have any myself, but I like it on other people, in a way, it's their own way of expressing themselves artfully, but I love this website, so full of information of where the history of tattoo art designs came from, and how it came to be. I love it!!!
Jen Howell on May 21, 2015:
Wondering the meaning of wolf face off with human skull. Others i have seen show one overcoming the other. Must mean something right? See my last name so i really want serious logical answer plz.
Matt on April 07, 2015:
Really enjoy this article. I recently got my first tattoo of a howling wolf head under a dark sky/northern lights type of look, with a silhoutte sort of scene within the head (hard to explain). I absolute love the meaning and simple beauty of the creatures and what they stand for. Great article, it really helped me get my ideas together for what I wanted and I'm extremely happy with the turn out so far (there is still a bit of watercolor and detail needing to be added).
CraftytotheCore on October 23, 2013:
Simply amazing! The art work in this Hub is truly wonderful and the information is priceless. Wolves are such a fascinating animal.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 18, 2013:
AliciaC, thanks for taking the time to comment. That's all I could ask, I know tattoos are not for everyone. My main goal, is to get people to understand that it's art. Tattoos have changed from decades ago. Take the wolf tattoo, the wolf has been symbolic to a variety of different cultures over time. The wolf can represent strength to love, success to devotion. As art, the wolf can be designed alone or with associated elements that gives it special meaning.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 17, 2013:
I don't have any tattoos, but I appreciate the tattoo as an art form. I love the pictures and the descriptions in this hub! Thanks for sharing the information.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on April 08, 2013:
Milind, first tattoo! We all want our first tattoo to be perfect. That is a given. You will worry about this one more then any other you get. The great thing about the three is their inner connection with one another. It is a great 3 piece combo for sure, a perfect first tattoo. In my personal opinion, I would have the dreamcatcher as the main back piece. Within the weave of the dreamcatcher, I would place the moon and wolf. I believe dark blue, black, and a dark silver would be my colors of choice. I would decorate everything in these colors, match the moon, wolf, and dreamcatcher all together. Another color would be fine and is your choice. The dreamcatcher can run from the top shoulder down to the elbow or shorter. I would add the same color beads to the dreamcatcher. I like a little purple with this look, but that is your choice. This placement and tattoo would be perfect for your first tattoo.
Milind on March 30, 2013:
wolf tattoos really excite me a lot.. i am getting one done for myself. this is going to be my 1st tattoo. and i am really confused. i want a wolf with moon and a dreamcatcher but i don't know how do i place them well on my arm. please help!!
Jew le pew on December 21, 2012:
Half human half man huh?
tattoo removal on October 31, 2012:
The concept of wolf tattoo is indifferent... and also pictures look real..i would also go for this type of tattoo after seeing in your blog..
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 18, 2012:
Dreaminwolf, thanks for the comment. Most certainly. That is an awesome idea! I like the feather idea, running down the arms. It sounds awesome. I would consider beads on the dreamcatcher, so it would be beads and feathers down the arm. Think it adds a great dimension. If you go for it, would love to see the pic!
Cool guy, thanks for dropping by and for an awesome comment. Sounds like the right tat for you.
To dreaminwolf on September 18, 2012:
dreaminwolf sounds pretty awesome!
cool guy on September 18, 2012:
Now im Sure I'm Really getting the Tattoo of a wolf ! because i can relate to it !
dreaminwolf on September 17, 2012:
These are some awesome pics and meanings. I came here to get some ideas to finish my tat. On my right shoulder I have a wolf tat howling with some trees on the top left corner and wind blowing all around it. I was thinking about adding a bright moon in the background then finishing it with a dreamcatcher with the whole tat inside of the dreamcatcher with feathers running down my arm. Do u think that will be a good tattoo?
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 12, 2012:
Wolfdragon7, thanks for taking the time to drop by. I think it all goes together and I think it would be a great overall project. You have a theme going and as you have said, I would continue it. All of them are associated in ways, so go for it. Wondering what kind of colors would be used. So many possibilities, but I am seeing a dark background. Of course, it would make all your symbols stand out. It is a great idea and I do like the theme.
wolfdragon7 on September 07, 2012:
Great pics, I have a wolf tattoos with a yellow full moon behind a howling wolf with a tribal symbol along the length on one shoulder, the other shoulder is a dragon, from my lower back to my upper back I have a half wolf face and half dragon face. If on my left upper arm I put a snarling wolf face with a Native American Indian face would this work? Would they tie in together enough. My right upper arm is a witch on a broom stick with owls, pumpkins I had this for a very specific reason. I have been drawn to Native Americans since I was very young hence all the wolf tattoos, dragons also featured highly on that list. Your opinion would be appreciated. thanks
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 10, 2012:
LoneWolforever, thanks for coming by and commenting. Awesome! That is a great meaning. It shows that although the wolf symbolizes family, they can be independent also.
LoneWolforever on July 07, 2012:
I have a wolf tatto it represent the lone man or better sayed lone wolf
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on April 24, 2012:
Dennis, thanks for the question. You could go with a howling wolf with a moon in the back ground. We are not going traditional, so no howling in front of the moon. We want the moon to light up the background, possible with a few teepee, rolling smoke from the fires. I don't know if you have an association to Native America, but it would make for a great tattoo. You have your entire upper back to work with. If you want something real fierce, you can have a wolf breaking through the skin. I will throw another one down. I saw a tattoo years ago and it was a wolf in deep snow. I never asked what it meant, but it was a bad tat. It had the mountains, moon, beautiful sky, snow covered pine trees, and two small baby wolfs. The wolf is symbolic of family, courage, ect. Are you looking for anything symbolic or just a great design? Your paw is the center piece, a howling wolf on the right bottom with tribal art perhaps.
Dennis dallemani@comcast,net on April 20, 2012:
I have two wolf tatoos And now I am looking for that perfect one to place on my back the center will be a paw print with wolfs in each of the pads this will be black and grey looking for something to go with it just to make it pop will be doing this from mid to upper back any idels
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on February 09, 2012:
Beth, thank you for coming by and your comment. I appreciate you coming by.
Beth Perry from Tennesee on February 08, 2012:
Ah now, I love these beauties! The one tattoo I have is a wolf on my left thigh.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on February 06, 2012:
*Dim, thanks for taking the time to come by and comment. I have always enjoyed their link to Native Americans as well. I have always loved the history. Thanks for the visit.
*Alocsin, as always, thanks for coming by. I really like the tribal tattoos also. The full detailed ones look great, but I like the creativity of the tribal wolf.
*Writer20, thanks for taking the time to come by. I am glad you found it interesting. Best wishes.
*Frank, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks for all your time.
*Gypsy, my dear Gypsy:) Always great to see and hear from you. I am so grateful.
*AE, thanks again for dropping by. I agree. I really like that link, love the heritage behind it all.
*Alastar, thanks for coming by. I love the wolf associated to the dreamcatcher. It makes more a great tattoo. Proud heritage.
*TFH, thanks for taking the time to drop by. Your visit is always appreciated.
*Hengwug, thanks for your time and comment. There are tons of designs, styles, and meanings. I hope you find a great first tat unique to you.
*MM, always great to hear from you. It would be a great choice for you. Glad you came by Lesley. Take care.
Movie Master from United Kingdom on February 05, 2012:
Hi Ricky, I love and admire the wolf - if I ever have a tattoo, it would have to be the wolf!
The pictures are awesome, the detail in these tattoos amazing!
Many thanks and voted up,best wishes Lesley
hengwug on February 05, 2012:
Cool. After reading your hubs, I have found more ideas on my first tattoo. Thanks.
The Finance Hub from Portland, Oregon on February 04, 2012:
Love the tats!!! Great hub, hope you will enjoy mine as well!
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on February 04, 2012:
Alright, now we're talkin. Have an affinity for the wolves-they're such intelligent and magnificent creatures. These are some very cool wolf tats lyric; the face print and native ones especially.
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 04, 2012:
This is amazing. If i had the courage, the wolf would be my selection for a tattoo..Honoring the Indian in my ancestry..Thank you..Beautiful Hub...
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 04, 2012:
I love wolves. These are terrific tattoos.
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 04, 2012:
wow thelyricewriter these are just so cool!!!!
Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on February 04, 2012:
I have always thought wolves are pretty. Voted up and interesting, Joyce
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 04, 2012:
Another fascinating discourse into beautiful tattoos. My favorite are the black and red wolves, tribal-style, in the middle. Voting this Up and Beautiful.
Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on February 04, 2012:
Absolutely fascinating article. The pics are tremendous too. I´ve never seen so many different images of a wolf.
I´ve had a soft spot for them since I learned what they meant to the American Indians, but I didn´t really associate the ´pack´ of wolves as being family oriented. DUH!!! How daft am I. Really really enjoyed this. Thank you.