There are very few things that can compare to the feeling you get when you’re camping out in the woods…then wake up to the sound of an eerie howl in the distance.
You remember that within the depths of the forest, a vicious pack of beasts lurks. They’re cunning…ruthless…and incredibly intelligent.
Suddenly you realize how utterly helpless you are. Your concrete walls aren’t there to protect you now. You’re not in control anymore.
You’re nothing but food for the wolves.
The tribal wolf tattoo is an incredibly popular design—a must have tattoo for the family man, the lover, and the fighter. In this article, I’ve compiled 25 of the best ones.
Each artist is given due credit, so if you want to check out more of their work or message them directly, their names and Instagram accounts are all there.
Towards the end, I’ll also answer some FAQs and talk about the various symbolisms associated with wolves, so keep reading!
Tribal Wolf Tattoos
Tribal Wolf Chest Tattoos
The chest is a fantastic location to place your tribal wolf tattoo. Apart from having a ton of space to play around with, the chest also hurts less to tattoo and is much less visible, which helps if you’re taking on a conservative career path.
Since chest has a lot of space, you can play around with the design by adding different elements or using a pose that would usually demand larger space.
by Mark Campbell. (@m_campbell12345 on Instagram).
by Gordon. (@mrartistpainterman on Instagram).
Tribal Wolf Shoulder Tattoos
Shoulder tattoos have a similar effect to chest tattoos, in that they’re powerful and less visible.
The tradeoff is that shoulder tattoos generally hurt more to get. Of course, this does depend on which areas your tattoo extends to.
If your shoulder tattoo extends towards your shoulder blades and clavicles, get ready for a spike of pain. Those areas are much bonier, so the pain will get much more intense.
In any case, the muscular profile of the shoulders really helps to accent the aesthetics of the tribal wolf tattoo.
by Millennium. (@mglatattoo on Instagram).
by Baby Blue. (@she_is_baby_blue on Instagram).
by Rare Breed. (@rarebreed_tattoo on Instagram).
Tribal Wolf Arm Tattoos
Arm tattoos have a lot of aesthetic value. Since the arms are muscular, the tribal patterns get to hug the muscle profile of the biceps and triceps. This makes for an awesome visual treat.
The tradeoff, of course, is visibility and space. The arms are generally very meaty, so you won’t have a lot of trouble with pain.
But now, the tattoo is more visible, which can be a problem depending on your career. It’s also a much tighter space, so your design options will be fairly limited to small- and medium-size designs.
The great thing about these, though, is that you can use the tribal wolf tattoo as a setup for a future sleeve that also incorporates ornamental and geometric design patterns.
by IndieInk TattooArt. (@indieink.tattoo on Instagram).
by Master Pierce. (@masterpierceprofessional on Instagram).
by Shiva Kumar. (@_artist_for_life on Instagram).
by Madurai Tattoos. (@madurai_tattoos on Instagram).
by Carlos Loreto. (@artcarlitosway on Instagram).
by aquariestattoo. (@aquariestattoo on Instagram).
by Gede Sony. (@gedesony on Instagram).
by Mad Artist Tattoos. (@_madartisttattoos on Instagram).
by Emre Çetinbaş. (@emrecetnbs on Instagram).
by Blackhart Tattoo. (@blackhart_tattoo on Instagram).
by Dylan. (@heed313 on Instagram).
by Psycho Tattoo. (@psycho5701 on Instagram).
by Fernando Reyes. (@chicomalox on Instagram).
Tribal Wolf Leg Tattoos
In terms of tattoo placement, the leg is very similar to the arm. Although now, you have much more freedom.
The leg is about thrice the size of the arm, which gives you so much more space to play around with your design. You can add more elements or more details.
It’s also extra meaty, so you can expect much less pain, given that you avoid areas like the knee and ankle. It’s also less visible, since you’ll likely be wearing a lot of pants.
by Unknown Artist
by Crystal Rose. (@crystalrosetattoo on Instagram).
by Neri. (@anxietycat_ink on Instagram).
by Stigmastudios. (@stigmastudios on Instagram).
Tribal Wolf Neck Tattoos
If you’re feeling extra daring, you can opt for a tribal wolf tattoo on your neck. It adds a lot of personality and can look amazing if your artist knows what they’re doing.
Surprisingly, they don’t hurt much to get. And they’re super safe too. You’ll last about 3-4 hours before the pain actually starts kicking in, so if you’re considering a neck tattoo, pain won’t be a big deal breaker.
What will be a deal breaker is whether you’re in a conservative career path or not.
If you’re working towards a conservative career path with a lot of conservative people, you’re better off getting a tattoo somewhere else. Save yourself the trouble of covering up and wearing turtlenecks every day to work.
But if you’ve committed yourself to getting visible tattoos, go for it! Neck tattoos are an awesome addition to any tattoo collection.
by Vinay Dutt. (@vinay_dut on Instagram).
Tribal Wolf Back Tattoos
The back is another fantastic location for your tribal wolf tattoo. It provides the most space out of any location, so you get a lot of flexibility with your tattoo design.
The downside is that there are some pain spikes depending on where your tattoo extends. The worst parts of the back, pain wise, are on the spine and shoulder blades.
But if you’re going for a small- or medium-sized design, like the ones below, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
by shahin_tattoo_pro. (@shahin_tattoo_pro on Instagram).
by neal_panda. (@neal_panda on Instagram).
What does the wolf symbolize?
Tribal wolf tattoos look badass. That’s just us stating a fact. They emit this cool, enigmatic energy, which is why so many people are fond of them.
But there’s so much more to tribal wolf tattoos. Attached to the wolf are so many deep symbolisms which have roots in various cultures throughout history.
To help you understand your tribal wolf tattoo better, we’ve compiled a short list of the various symbolisms attached to the wolf, along with an explanation of each one.
In the 1800s, grey wolves roamed free over the North American continent. Their territory stretched far south into central Mexico.
But towards the end of that century, through various control programs, humans decimated the grey wolf population. The wolves posed a threat to one of our most precious resources—livestock.
So humans did all they could to eradicate the wolf population—shooting, trapping, and poisoning—it was a ruthless, violent campaign.
In order to get away from humans, the wolves escaped to the highlands—mountainous areas not frequented by humans.
And for a long time, the campaign was successful. They had accomplished what they sought out to do. The security of their livestock had been assured, but at the tragic cost of the grey wolf population.
During that time, grey wolves were a rare sight. They always hid, living in fear of the vicious humans. They had become ghosts in their own homeland.
You could only catch a glimpse of them in the innermost parts of the highlands. Locals would sometimes see one before it fled, and they would be left in sheer awe.
Over time, they started to view the wolves as spirits—guardians of the highlands.
This view was firmly held, even in cultures across the world. The Lakotan word for wolf, sunkmanitu, literally means “divine dog”.
It is a revered animal. Some cultures even believed wolves to be the ancestors of their people.
Some also believe that wolves possess spiritual powers—that parts of its body held powers people could use for various needs.
Ultimately, it was because of their beautiful, enigmatic nature that they are recognized as symbols of spirituality.
Loyalty & Kinship
In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1894), the wolves are bound by a set of legal codes called The Law for the Wolves.
One of the lines in the wolf code says “the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
This perfectly represents the importance of each wolf in a pack. The pack’s strength depends completely on the participation of each wolf. Without each other, they struggle.
Because of this, wolves have an immense sense of loyalty and kinship. They hunt together in packs and mate for life.
When a cub is born, the whole pack is intent on caring for it and teaching it to survive. Even the fathers, whose viciousness and strength know no bounds, turn gentle in the company of their children.
In the face of danger, the leader will always look out for the benefit of the pack. If it senses that a situation could end negatively, it will signal a retreat for the safety of the pack.
Even though they’re sometimes seen as vicious creatures blinded by bloodlust, they’re actually very intelligent creatures with intense loyalty.
Because of this, wolves have become a firm symbol for loyalty and kinship.
Courage & Strength
A standoff between a wolf and a bear (Source)
In the picture above, Nanuk, the alpha of a wolf pack stands nose to nose with a grizzly bear. Initially, the two came into conflict over a carcass.
But when Nanuk realized that one of the females in his pack was pregnant, the conflict quickly escalated. He wanted to protect his vulnerable mate.
In his mission to protect her and the pack, Nanuk stood nose to nose with the massive grizzly—a beast capable of destroying him with a single swipe.
This incident is only one of many…a true testament to the courage and strength of wolves. To stand nose to nose with a monster 5 times your size is no easy feat, but it’s a risk they’re willing to take if it means protecting the pack.
And they can walk the talk, too. German Shepherds have a bite force of 80 psi—3 times less than the whopping 250 psi of wolves. And unlike dogs, which lock their jaws, wolves strategically change their jaws’ position to suit their advantage—truly a force to be reckoned with.
But this isn’t what makes them strong. Lone wolves have trouble hunting for large prey. This forces them to stick to a diet consisting of small animals or carrion.
The strength of a wolf comes not from itself, but from its pack. When a wolf is accompanied by its pack, its senses are heightened, and it feels more courageous…it becomes stronger.
This pack mentality is the reason wolves are apex predators, and it’s why they will always be recognized as symbols of courage and strength.
Tribal Wolf Tattoo FAQs
Why should I get a tribal wolf tattoo?
Tribal wolf tattoos are fantastic if you want something with a personal feel but with a natural, flowy touch.
Wolf tattoos are your constant companions wherever you go, and doing them in a tribal style adds a lot to the aesthetics.
They’re ideal for people who feel like they’re part of a solid pack and view themselves as courageous, strong, and loyal.
Where should I put my tribal wolf tattoo?
These are the most popular locations for tribal tattoos in general. They provide enough visibility, and the shape of these muscles really helps the blackwork pop.
Will it hurt?
If you’re wondering how badly getting your tattoo will hurt, don’t worry. This is the most common question we get from first timers.
The answer is yes. The needle will be piercing your skin at a rapid rate. It’s going to hurt. But what you really want to know is how much it will hurt.
But before we go into any more detail, it’s worth pointing out that it won’t be as bad as you think. The pain is more tolerable, like getting scratched.
Generally, though, the pain depends on a few factors:
- Size & complexity of design
- Tattoo placement
- Pain tolerance
Pain intensity varies wildly between each person. What might hurt for you might not hurt at all for someone else.
So before getting your tattoo, get to know your body and think about how well you’ll do with each factor in mind.
Size & complexity of design
Your design’s size and complexity are major factors that contribute to your pain.
On their own, the size and complexity won’t contribute much to the intensity of your pain. What they will affect is how long your tattoo session/s will be.
If you have a high pain tolerance, then time won’t matter. You’ll be fine whether you get a small tattoo or a big one. But if you have a low pain tolerance, then you’ll need to endure the pain much longer.
When it comes to tribal wolf tattoos, sizes generally vary from medium- to large-size. They use a lot of bold blacks (see: blackwork tattoos ), and the designs are usually very complex. This complexity is what defines tribal tattoos. They often use repetitive, geometrical patterns.
For tribal wolf tattoos, the patterns are mainly composed of long and flowy strokes rather than various repetitive shapes, although the complexity is still there. So your tattoo session may take longer than expected.
The blackwork will need to maintain a consistent darkness so the strokes can avoid looking patchy. This demands a lot of focus (and thus time) from your artist. And if you want a good quality tattoo, you will need to deal with the pain.
Just remember to get a design that’s appropriate for your tolerance for pain. Too much pain can get in the way of both you and your artist.
- Tattoo placement
Another factor that dictates how much pain you will experience is where you place it.
The most popular locations for tribal wolf tattoos are the chest, shoulders, upper arm, and forearm. Depending on the scope of your design, these are generally great locations in terms of pain intensity.
They all have a hefty amount of fat and muscle, which means you’ll have some decent protection against the impact of the tattoo needle.
But when the scope of your tattoo extends beyond the fatty and muscly part, that’s when the pain intensifies. If you get a forearm tattoo and it extends to your wrist or elbow, the fat and muscle gets noticeably thinner, which means you’ll have less protection.
So before you get your tattoo, think about which areas it touches and whether those areas have enough fat and muscle to dullen the pain.
For a comprehensive discussion on which body parts hurt most when getting tattooed, check out this article by Healthline on tattoo pain.
- Pain tolerance
Some people have naturally low pain tolerances. This could be caused by a skin condition, thin skin, or recent emotional trauma. Pain tolerances vary from person to person, so it’s a good idea to figure out how well you fare before booking an appointment.
But if you’re already committed to getting your tattoo, here are a few actionable ways to mitigate the pain:
- Get enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep before getting your tattoo, you’ll hinder your body’s natural healing process. (Important!)
- Stay sober. If you drink before getting your tattoo, get ready for some pain. Alcohol is classified as a blood thinner. When your blood thins, it’s more prone to bleeding and bruising. (Important!)
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water before getting your tattoo. It’ll help your skin stay supple throughout the session. It’ll also help your tattoo heal faster after your session.
- Moisturize. Hydrating your skin doesn’t just mean drinking plenty of water. You should also take the liberty of applying moisturizer to keep your skin nice and hydrated from the outside.
- Take breaks. There will be moments in your tattoo session where the pain will just be too much to handle. This is normal. When this happens, feel free to ask your artist for a short break.
According to research, a person’s pain tolerance is directly affected by their experience with tattoos. This means that if you’ve had tattoos done in the past, you’ll likely feel less pain.
Tribal wolf tattoos are perfect for the family man, the lover, and the fighter. It’s a tattoo that goes past mere aesthetics—an emblematic tattoo for the person of value.
It’s an iconic tattoo not only for its appearance, but also because of its deep symbolism. The wolf is a symbol of courage and strength, loyalty and kinship, and spirituality.
Did you enjoy these tribal wolf tattoo designs or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more designs from talented artists.