Very few people can say they can swim in open water over a shiver of circling hammerhead sharks and not immediately start begging for their lives—I know I’d be losing my mind.
Hammerhead sharks have an imposing presence—a mixture of terrifying and cool. And though they aren’t actively on the hunt for humans, their massive frame and commanding appearance are sure to earn them the respect of any nearby diver. They’re fantastic creatures—intelligent, curious, and powerful—which is why they make such badass tattoos.
In this article, I’ve compiled 15 of the most badass hammerhead shark tattoos I’ve seen on the internet. The work of every artist is given due credit, so you can check out more of their work or choose to message them directly.
Towards the end, I’ll also answer some FAQs about hammerhead shark tattoos and talk about the most definite symbolism associated with them, so stick around!
Hammerhead Shark Tattoos
Japanese Style Hammerhead Shark Tattoos
For this charming, vibrant upper arm piece, the artist uses a style reminiscent of the iconic traditional Japanese tattoo style, Irezumi. In Irezumi, folk legends and creatures are often used as focal elements. These are then complemented using vivid, dynamic backgrounds, often incorporating various flora. In this design, a hammerhead is colored green with orange spots. It splashes against ocean waves to create a dynamic setting. The design is then topped off using cherry blossoms scattered throughout the composition, by Jared. (@constvntheadache on Instagram).
Tribal Hammerhead Shark Tattoos
Tribal tattooing is a style that commonly uses tribal patterns to form a specific image. In this forearm piece, tribal designs (presumably Polynesian) create a picture of a hammerhead shark. Marine life traditionally plays a significant role in Polynesian culture because of their oceanic lifestyle, which is why they’re often incorporated into Polynesian-style art by Kochybey_tattoo. (@best_tattoo_abinsk on Instagram).
In this piece, the length of the hammerhead is oriented along the shoulder blade. The tattoo’s curved shape perfectly hugs the shape of the shoulder blade. The tribal tattoo seems to take inspiration from various tribal pattern styles such as Maori, by Eugenius Taase. (@eugenius_tattoos on Instagram).
In this tribal calf tattoo, symmetry is more evident. Often, in tribal style tattoos, asymmetrical balance plays a significant role in creating the aesthetic. Patterns vary along each side of the central axis. But in this piece, patterns are mostly symmetrical, which adds to the balance of the design. As a complementary element, the hammerhead’s dorsal fin is replaced by a design of a tropical flower, by Happy Sailor Tattoo. (@happysailortattootonga on Instagram).
Despite the majority of tribal tattoos being done purely using blackwork, a great way to accent them is by using color. In this piece, the artist uses a watercolor tattoo style to create a dynamic scene. The hammerhead (done in tribal style) splashes around on water (done in watercolor style). The “accidental” watercolor splatter effects are done carefully by hand, by joshuaflinn. (@joshuaflinn on Instagram).
In this piece, watercolor techniques are used once again to create a dynamic scene. One method to incorporate watercolor is by using tribal style exclusively on the focal element (in this case, the hammerhead) and then using watercolor for the background or surrounding elements. This piece is done by using a mix of the two. While the focal element is illustrated using tribal ink exclusively, the surrounding “wave” is done using tribal ink as well. It is then accented using different hues of watercolor style splatters to make the image really pop, by joshuaflinn. (@joshuaflinn on Instagram).
Contrary to most other tribal hammerhead shark tattoos, this piece avoids using too many established tribal patterns. Other tattoos usually use tribal patterns from Samoan or Maori cultures. This one instead uses bold, curved lines to imitate the “tribal” aesthetic, by Unknown Artist
Black-and-Grey Hammerhead Shark Tattoos
In this unique shoulder tattoo design, a school of hammerhead sharks swims together. The design starts from the top of the shoulder blade and ends at the top of the bicep. By using hatching techniques, the artist creates various levels of depth. This effect mimics the perspective of a diver as they float atop a school of hammerheads. Those with darker shading appear deeper down while those nearer to the surface have lighter shading, by Kalatu. (@kalatu_tattoo on Instagram).
Sharks are known to a lot of people as monstrous, vicious creatures, mostly because of Hollywood films made in the late 20th century. And to some degree, they are. Most sharks are natural hunters that can be vicious when they need to be. This piece highlights that characteristic. By emphasizing features such as its razor-sharp teeth and wrinkly skin, the artist turns this hammerhead shark into a dreadfully terrifying sea monster, by arenarosetattoo. (@arenarosetattoo on Instagram).
Funny Hammerhead Shark Tattoos
If you aren’t a fan of the faded, muted look that can come naturally with black-and-grey style tattoos, perhaps opt for a blackwork style tattoo. It’s a style that exclusively uses bold blacks for everything from outlines to shadows. The great thing about blackwork is that it can really amplify the intensity of a certain design. In this piece, a hammerhead shark is trapped in a pint of beer (or a transparent milkshake, if you prefer that). The boldness of the blackwork style in this piece is used to emphasize the hammerhead, by Molly Maddison. (@mollymaddison_tattoos on Instagram).
In this clever piece, a hammerhead is shown wearing a customized hammerhead astronaut suit. On the internet alone, there are hundreds of clever customized tattoo designs, but if you want something more personalized, you can cooperate with your tattoo artist to make a completely new design, by bear submongkol. (@bear_submongkol on Instagram).
If you’re someone with a more lighthearted, fun personality, consider getting a funny hammerhead tattoo. This adorable piece is a clever take on the hammerhead’s name. The shark’s hammer-shaped head is replaced with an actual claw hammer with a comedic, deadpan expression. Subtle elements like the floating bowler hat and bowtie are used to add a touch of personality to our tool-faced friend, by Melissa Laina. (@mel_ociraptor on Instagram).
New School Hammerhead Shark Tattoos
In this forearm piece, a hammerhead is surrounded by a stream of blood. Its eyes turn red as if losing all free will and succumbing to bloodlust. This piece is built on the notion that sharks are vicious, bloodthirsty creatures. The truth is, even though sharks are carnivores, they mostly tend to ignore humans—the hammerhead, even more so. Hammerheads are more peaceful than their other shark cousins, which is why they’re viewed by the Polynesians as a protector, by Levi Dunn. (@theamericansuffer on Instagram).
If you’re someone who’s into a more minimalist, chic aesthetic, consider getting a New School style tattoo. New School tattoos are easily identified by the use of heavy outlines and vivid colors. If you don’t think Tribal, Traditional, or Realistic tattoos are for you, New School tattoos sit in that sweet spot right between them all. In this calf tattoo, a hammerhead shark is seen from below. Remora are seen latching onto the sides, and an orange circle is seen in the background (presumably the sun) as a finishing touch, by iconoglyphs. (@iconoglyphs on Instagram).
One of the hammerhead shark’s greatest characteristics is its ruthless hunting prowess. Its anatomy is perfectly adapted to make it an extremely efficient hunter. Its ampullae of Lorenzini (electroreceptors) are heavily amplified, while its iconic head shape allows its eyes to effortlessly track and pin down its prey. In this piece, a hammerhead’s face is replaced with a skateboard’s axle. The words “grip it and rip it” is seen underneath, a popular saying that means “never give up when faced with adversity”, by MalinTattoos. (@malintattoos on Instagram).
What do hammerhead sharks symbolize?
Because of the way their culture worked, the oceanic people of Polynesia probably saw most of the shark species. Their culture was one of seafaring and oceanic exploration. So naturally, they developed an affinity to and understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants.
Here are some of the most famous hammerhead shark symbolisms conceived by the Polynesians.
In Hawaii, sharks generally aren’t viewed the same way as they are in much of the Western world.
Unlike in Hollywood, where they are thought of as monsters who bring only death, native Hawaiians view them as gods of the sea, protectors of the sea, and cleaners of excessive ocean life.
Their roles in the marine ecosystem are very well recognized, and they aren’t viewed as “monsters” unlike how Hollywood would have us believe.
In fact, researchers have concluded that sharks usually don’t care about humans. They usually just ignore us even though we’re basically helpless floating sausages in open water.
Sometimes, believe it or not, they might just even be confusing us for seals.
And sure. The reports are there because the attacks do happen.
Most sharks are carnivorous. That’s not changing ever. The native Hawaiians even have a word for man-eating sharks—niuhi.
Thankfully, a lot of sharks (including the hammerhead) aren’t niuhi. They believed hammerheads (or as they would call them, mano kihikihi) protected them from niuhi, which is why these are one of the most respected sharks of the ocean.
But Hollywood movies often put them in a bad light.
For us to view sharks with a more informed perspective, it’s important to know just how rare shark attacks are.
For reference, your chances of dying to a lightning strike (1 in 160,000) are much worse than your chances of dying by shark attack (1 in 3,700,000)—that’s 20 times less!
And that’s counting every reported shark attack. Which means hammerheads are even chiller than you’d think.
So when you get a chance to see a hammerhead in all its glory, try to appreciate it for what the Polynesians saw it as—a protector.
The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands.
It has a pretty great concentration of endemic wildlife consisting of birds, sea turtles, and other exotic animals.
But one creature you’ll seldom see along the shores of Maui is the hammerhead shark. Their appearance is a rare sight.
Because of this, the natives of Maui believe that seeing one swim by is a sign that the gods are watching over their families and that the oceans are safe, clean, and balanced.
Hammerheads are very aggressive and efficient hunters. They feed on smaller fish, octopuses, and other small ocean dwellers.
They owe a lot of their hunting prowess to their extremely heightened ampullae sensitivity and 360-degree vision.
Its favorite meal is the stingray, which usually creates strong electrical fields. So this along with the stingray’s broad build makes it the perfect meal for a hungry hammerhead shark.
The hammerhead’s electroreceptors and wide head shape allow it to ruthlessly track and pin down any unsuspecting stingray.
Now for native Hawaiians, birth animals were an important part of their culture because knowing a child’s own birth animal would give them an idea of their destiny.
Because the hammerhead shark was such an aggressive, tenacious hunter, native Hawaiians viewed children born under the sign of the hammerhead as fierce warriors— destined to protect the tribe and sail the oceans.
Hammerhead Shark Tattoo FAQs
What does a hammerhead shark tattoo mean?
A hammerhead shark tattoo means that you are someone with a tenacious resolve and fighting spirit but are ultimately protective and pacifistic.
Are hammerhead sharks endangered?
Unfortunately, yes. Hammerhead sharks generally have large fins which have high needle counts. Because of this, hammerhead shark fins are highly sought after in the global shark fin trade.
Because of how valuable their fins are, steep declines in hammerhead shark populations have been noted in the last century.
In coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea, hammerhead sharks were wildly abundant, but since the emergence of the global shark fin trade, very few, if any at all, have been seen since 1963.
For reference, just 1 kg of shark fins can sell for $400 while fins of “trophy” species such as the whale shark and basking shark (the two largest shark species alive) can sell for as much as $20,000 per fin.
It’s a truly massive market that’s extremely difficult to regulate.
Thankfully, governments have taken notice of these tragic developments and have since taken action towards protecting these animals.
Why should I get a hammerhead shark tattoo?
If you feel you have a natural inclination towards the oceans, or you think you are inherently strong but ultimately pacifistic (as hammerheads are), then I recommend you get a hammerhead shark tattoo.
But sharks are very interesting creatures with cool, and vastly different behaviors. Each species is unique.
If you personally identify with them, you should read more about them here. Try looking for a species whose specific behaviors and overall appearance you like then coordinate with your artist for a personalized tattoo.
Where should I put my hammerhead shark tattoo?
Since hammerhead sharks tattoos are pretty long and slender, they’ll naturally hug the shape of your arms and thighs. The chest, on the other hand, provides a large enough space to accommodate bigger, more complicated pieces.
If you’re going for a really massive tattoo with various elements, such as incorporating other ocean wildlife or full underwater environments, then I recommend getting your tattoo on your back.
Will it hurt?
Frankly, yes. But since hammerhead shark tattoos are often large, people often don’t put them on thin and bony body parts.
The smallest area you can probably put your tattoo is on your forearm, and even that still has enough fat and muscle to dampen the impact of the tattoo needle.
The arms, chest, thigh, and back all have very thick layers of fat and muscle which really help with lessening the pain.
But it still depends. Parts of the chest, specifically the clavicles and sternum, are very thin and bony, so the pain in those parts gets noticeably more intense.
The same goes for the wrist area below the forearm, and towards the knees right below the thighs. Since there isn’t a lot of fat and muscle, it becomes more painful.
Chances are, though, that only a sliver of your entire design will be dedicated to those areas—the tail fins, or part of the head, because of how most hammerhead shark designs work.
For a comprehensive discussion on which body parts hurt most when getting tattooed, check out this article by Healthline on tattoo pain.
Hammerheads are magnificent creatures, no doubt. Not only are they extremely important to the ecosystem, but they’re also symbols of tenacity, balance, and protection.
So if you want to show your appreciation for these creatures, along with your unfaltering resolve and compassionate personality, a hammerhead shark tattoo is the way to go.
Did you enjoy these hammerhead shark tattoo designs or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more badass designs from talented artists.