It has been estimated that roughly 25% of all tattoos utilize animals. Many people relate to the physical and behavioral qualities that their animal totems possess, including prowess, beauty, and temperament. These creatures become a way for us to express emotions, instincts, and even experiences. Although what an individual associates with a particular animal has a great deal to do with the symbolic meaning that they personally ascribe to it, many animal images seem to speak directly about ferocity or grace, swiftness or strength, purity or poison, based mostly on the common perceptions that we have of them.These types of tattoos include everything from entire scenes of a wild jungle habitat to a single diminutive frog, from doves to dolphins, and alligators to zebras. At times people with an animal tattoo identify with the look or behavior of the animal, feeling that it represents a part of them. Other times their animal symbol is a reminder of a particular place (penguins) or is simply a particularly cute (pandas) or ferocious (pythons) type of creature.
Animal symbolism is among the most ancient of representational tattoo styles. However, as described in other sections of this web site, some animals have a great many historical or mythological associations (see the USMC Bulldog or the wolf, as two examples)–symbolism that is deeply rooted and which varies greatly from culture to culture, even for the same animal.