What Is the Meaning of a Black Panther Tattoo?

Updated November 21, 2016

Cat tattoos are one of the most popular choices. Cat designs, such as leopard and panther, are visible in most tattoo parlours. Large, predatory cats convey an image of feral strength and aggression, which makes black panther tattoos and similar designs a favourite among men. But the meaning of any tattoo is just as important as the tattoo itself.


The black panther tattoo, also known as the crawling panther, was first used in tattooing by Milwaukee tattoo artist Amund Dietzel. A children's book was published in 1934 (Minute Myths and Legends: Dramatic Moments in the Affairs of the Gods, Arch-Demons, Goddesses, Demi-Gods and Heroes of This and Other Worlds) that featured the crawling panther design illustrated by Marie Schubert. Dietzel adapted the design from the book to create the first known crawling panther tattoo design.


Black cat designs, such as the black panther tattoo, have historically been associated with the occult and witchcraft. Witches were said to keep black cats as personal familiars, companions who aided in spellwork and other witchy deeds. During the Middle Ages, black cats were symbolic of disguised demons.


Black panther tattoos are popular not only because they are evocative images and steeped in meaning, but because the design easily lends itself to body art. The rolling muscles of the large, predatory cats and the rolling muscles of the human body are a perfect artistic mix. Black panther tattoos, which require a lot of ink to create, may also be used to cover older tattoos. Often, black panthers are placed on arms, necks, legs and backs. The panthers are put in different poses: crawling, jumping and climbing.

Black Panther Meaning

In nature, the black panther's name and colouring changes by geographical location. Panthers are called cougars in North America, jaguars in Latin America. In other parts of the world, panthers are known as leopards. Black panthers are predatory cats that symbolise physical strength and courage, the symbol of choice for the radical 1960s groups of the same name.

Tattoo Meaning

Black panther tattoos convey leaderships, strength and power, and usually indicate a strong personality. On women, black panther tattoos symbolise courage and protective love, like mother panthers who watch over their cubs. Because of its association with U.S. counterculture history and because black panthers symbolise aggressive strength, the tattoo is also a symbol of freedom from oppression. Black panther tattoos, too, are associated with martial arts such as Kung Fu, conveying an image of stealth and cunning. Black panther tattoos may evoke a sense of danger and passion.

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About the Author

K. C. Morgan is a professional freelance writer, with articles and blog posts appearing on dozens of sites. During her years of writing professionally, K. C. has covered a wide range of topics. She has interviewed experts in several fields, including celebrated psychoanalyst Frances Cohen Praver, PhD; television personality and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig; and entrepreneur Todd Reed.