Tigers are the largest felines in the world, outclassing even lions. Tipping the scales at over five hundred pounds, an adult tiger is one of the most dangerous land animals on the planet. There are several subspecies, from the most common yellow-and-black Bengal tiger to the white Siberian tigers who are the largest examples of tigers in the world.
Tigers, perhaps because of their stealthier hunting habits and generally solitary existence, lack the reputation for nobility that the lion (read on lion tattoo designs here) possesses and are much less common than their African cousins. Nonetheless, tigers give their more well respected relatives a challenge when it comes to symbolism.
Unlike lions, tigers actually live in jungles, as well as marshes and other tropical environs. While physically similar to lions, tiger and other big cats live in remarkably different ways from their social relatives. While lions run in prides and are often associated with leadership and stewardship, tigers symbolize independence and freedom in a very different way. As solitary creatures, tigers can often represent the desire to be free of encumbrances.
Tigers, like other big cats, often represent threat or danger. As ambush predators of tremendous strength, tigers can be a serious threat to human beings, so it's only natural that humans respect and fear them. As a result, tiger tattoos can be a way to show off some of the same threat that the animals possess. Tiger tattoos can also feature a caged beast, symbolizing that containment of the dangerous impulses that the tiger represents.
Tigers are also powerful symbols for vitality and virility. In many Asian medical traditions medicine made from tigers is associated with improving sex drive and performance in men, despite the lack of evidence to support these theories. Tattoos of tigers, with the combination of menace and beauty, echo this symbolism by expressing their bearer's own virility.
Tiger symbolism is further enriched by the many tales and fables surrounding them. One of the most famous is centered on the tiger's stripes, which are a tattoo motif of their own right. A tiger, it is said, cannot change its stripes. That is to say, a tiger's inherent nature as a powerful predator is fundamental to the cat. Likewise, a tattoo featuring a tiger's stripes can symbolize the unchanging nature of its bearer or their inability to change certain elements of their personality. It can even represent the pride the tattoo owner has at their unchanging nature.
Tigers, like many other large and dangerous creatures (like snake tattoo designs, wolf tattoo designs, and even bull tattoo designs), have a myriad of symbolic values that make them a perfect tattoo for many different reasons. Combining menace, danger, power, strength and beauty into a single symbol, tigers can represent many different things to different people and have a rich history in many cultures in India, China and South East Asia that connects them to religions, myths and even historical figures.