The Jaguar Tattoo: What It Means, What You Should Know, and Ideas For Your Tattoo.

There’s a long tradition of people wearing animal tattoos, particularly animals that are beautiful as well as powerful.  A jaguar tattoo is a popular animal image, especially among men.

Full body illustration of a jaguar.

While the tattoo is usually just the cat’s head, sometimes the entire body is shown in different ways.  There are also a few variations of jaguar tattoos for those who want something more outside the box.  However the image is depicted, a tattoo of a jaguar nearly always represents power, bravery, beauty, grace, along with other personality attributes.

If you’ve ever thought about getting a jaguar tattoo, keep reading to learn about the history and meanings behind the tattoo, as well as considerations to be aware of and images to inspire your jaguar tattoo.

Jaguar Tattoo Meaning

Jaguar tattoos mean slightly different things, depending on whether the wearer is a man or a woman.  Women are attracted to the grace and beauty of the jaguar, whereas the big cat predator quality of the jaguar are what appeal to men. Granted, that’s not a hard and fast rule, since there are plenty of powerful women wearing jaguar tattoos!

Some meanings have historical influences from South American cultures and those will be explained as well.

Common Meanings

Power

Can be a symbol of power and status.  On a spiritual level it can represent a connection to the divine.

Power doesn’t always mean appearing grandiose or ostentatious.  A jaguar tattoo can also be about humility, patience, inner strength, and confidence — a “quiet power.”

Warnings

But sometimes the tattoo suggests a warning by symbolizing “aggression when needed.”  When a jaguar is shown with a skull, the tattoo may represent being unafraid of death.

Sometimes the meaning is about bravery, facing fears,  and having a “fighting spirit.”  It represents that the person has a warrior spirit (not necessarily in the literal sense).

Personality Traits

A jaguar tattoo can mean that someone is secretive, stealthy, reserved, powerful.  It can also represent a person’s cunning and intelligence — it says they know how to get what they want.

Physical Traits

A jaguar is a beautiful animal, so many jaguar tattoos have meanings about beauty, strength, and dominance.  The tattoo can even represent the concepts of sophistication, elegance, and royalty.  Some jaguar tattoos include flowers or jewelry to emphasize these feminine aspects of the image.

Cultural Meanings

If you  want to know what was important to a culture, look at their art. Jaguars are a common image in the art of the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan cultures.

Primitive art images of jaguars.

The jaguar was the god of the underworld and could torment the deceased members of a family that had fallen out of favor with the jaguar.  Images of jaguars represented power and fertility.  Aztec warriors, known as “Jaguar Knights,” even wore jaguar skins into battle. 

Ancient jaguar tattoos represented a person’s spirituality since Mayan shamans believed a jaguar’s eyes could see into the spirit world.

Jaguar Tattoo Variations

Jaguars are shown in many forms in tattoos to express specific meanings for the wearer.

  • Classic cat heads that may be looking straight ahead or off to the side
  • A half-face image (to fit on a forearm, for instance)
  • Mayan, Incan, Aztec depictions from their art
  • Snarling jaguars.
  • Shown with symbols like skulls, jewelry, flowers, foliage
  • Shown in combat with another animal
  • Anthropomorphic images: has human qualities, like wearing clothing or holding objects in paws
  • Shown in Aztec/Inca/Mayan war dress

Alternatives

  • Only the eyes and the area of the face around the eyes
  • Jaguar warriors (Guerrero). The jaguar head might be worn as a headdress by a skull.
  • Jaguar spots on the wearer (Aztec, Inca, and Mayan warriors did this)
An actor portraying a Mayan "jaguar warrior" with jaguar spots and tribal war paint.  Jaguar spots were worn as jaguar tattoos by indigenous warriors in South America.
Member of Xipetotek, a group that performs re-enactments of Mayan ceremonies.

Jaguar Tattoo Styles

There’s not just one way to create a jaguar tattoo.  Several tattoo art styles create beautiful images that make an impression on anyone who sees them.

Black and Gray Realism

The most common tattoo style for jaguars is black and gray realism — sometimes the eyes will have color for impact.

Color Realism

Realism tattoos focus on the making the eyes have a penetrating gaze, as if the jaguar is looking straight out from the image at the viewer.  Full-body jaguar tattoos in color realism often have natural elements in the image, such as foliage or a tree branch.

Comic Book/Flash Art

These tattoos are brightly colored images that often suggest movement, speed, and power.

A flash art/comic book style image of a jaguar.

Watercolor

Watercolor jaguar tattoos have a less “menacing” feel to them because the animal’s beauty and graceful aspects are showcased.

Blackwork Tribal

These tattoos are throwbacks to the primitive art of the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan cultures.

Jaguar Tattoo Considerations

Jaguars and leopards are often mistaken for one another.  The main difference between the two are the shape of the spots — a jaguar’s look like roses and are called “rosettes.”  Make sure your tattooist knows this, otherwise your “jaguar” could end up with leopard spots!

In street culture (which does include gangs) big cat tattoos imply things about the wearer — the tattoo can be a warning about how the wearer will respond to aggression from others, or the tattoo announces the wearer’s status of being “at the top of the food chain.”  A jaguar tattoo could invite trouble if someone wants the wearer to prove they have what it takes to wear it.

Jaguar Tattoo Placement

A tattooist working on a client's arm.

People with tattoos of jaguars seem to like showing them off.  The most common place they’re worn is anywhere on the arm.  The next most common area is the chest. 

Wrists and hands are popular locations for smaller designs.  The leg is the least common place to find a jaguar tattoo.

Jaguar Tattoo Examples

While some of the images shown are of leopards and not jaguars (the spots, remember?), they can still inspire you to come up with an idea for a jaguar tattoo.

Black Ink Images

Example 1: A jaguar head image.

A black and white jaguar head image.

Example 2: A full-body jaguar on a tree branch.

A black an white image of a jaguar on a tree branch.

Example 3: A detailed jaguar head image.

A black and white jaguar head image in a realism style.

Example 4: A full-body jaguar image.

A black and white full-body image of a jaguar walking.

Example 5: A primitive art depiction of a jaguar.

A primitive black and white image of a jaguar head.

Example 6: A full-body jaguar image.

A full-body image of a jaguar lying down.

Example 7: A tribal jaguar head image.

A tribal image of a jaguar head.

Color Ink Images

Example 1: A multi-colored jaguar head.

A jaguar head in multiple bright colors.

Example 2: A black and white jaguar head with bright colors around it.

A black and white jaguar head with brightly colored "paint splatters" around it.

Example 3: A full-body color image of a jaguar.

A color full-body image of a jaguar crouching and snarling.
Example 4: The same image from above, but in color.
A color image of a jaguar head in a realism style.

Example 5: A watercolor image of a jaguar that beautifully illustrates the shape of a jaguar’s spots.

A watercolor image of a jaguar looking over its shoulder.

Final Thoughts On the Jaguar Tattoo

Jaguar tattoos make bold statements about the wearer and it definitely takes a certain personality type to pull it off!  But if any of the meanings behind a jaguar tattoo speak to you, then you are the right personality type. 

Whether you opt for a jaguar head, a full-body jaguar, a Jaguar Warrior image, or maybe just jaguar eyes or a few strategically placed spots, you can work with a tattooist to create a personalized tattoo with your own special meaning behind it.

Are you curious about what other tattoos mean? Click here for blog posts about other tattoo images.

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