The mysteries and legends surrounding sharks make them irresistible tattoos.
The Fijian people worshipped the shark-god Dakuwaqa, and the Ancient Hawaiians believed that two shark gods – Ukupanipo and Kamohoalli’I – controlled the oceans.
Sharks also symbolize strength, authority, and power in many cultures, with shark tattoos said to protect and empower the wearer.
If that wasn’t enough to sway you to the shark side (sorry for that), modern science has proven that sharks are downright incredible.
Did you know they have replaceable teeth and can sense electrical fields to sniff out prey?
Down below you can see some of the most amazing shark tattoos and the meanings behind them. We’re pretty sure you’ll be impressed!
Shark Symbolism in Different Cultures
Sharks are an everyday inspiration for symbols and metaphors in every society, especially in coastal cultures where first-hand encounters are common.
Ancient cultures usually view sharks as gods, while modern cultures view them as symbols of power and strength due to their brutal nature.
Pacific Island Culture
Sharks were gods and deities for the people living in the Pacific islands, helping protect the island from harm and control the oceans. In many places, they are as respected as ancestors and elders, serving as a symbol of power.
Hawaiians worshipped the seven shark gods Kamohoalli’I, Ukupanipo, Aumakua, Ka-ahupahau, Kane’apua, Kane’i’kokala, and Kūhaimoana. Together, these sharks protected the island and balanced the ocean’s wildlife.
Numerous Pacific Island legends also exist, such as Ninahere, when at the time of the Polynesian Gods, the heartbroken goddess of Raiatea, Paahonu vahin, ran away from the island on a shark to the secret island of Maupiti.
Native American and Indigenous Culture
In Haidi culture (an indigenous group from Haidi Gwaii, off the coast of British Columbia, Canada), the Dogfish Woman is one of the powerful beings of Haida mythology. This powerful shaman drew her powers from sharks.
Sharks do not feature prominently in Native American culture, but some tribes, such as the Tlingit tribe, used the shark as a symbol. Many Northwest coast tribes also represented sharks on totem poles as a symbol of power and strength.
There are also many shark superstitions shared by tribes, including sharks near beaches signifying a storm or hurricane.
Australian Aboriginal culture
The shark symbolizes bravery, fearlessness, and ultimate power to the Australian aboriginal people. They are perceived in mythology as spirits of destruction, but they were considered ocean keepers and crucial to nature’s balance.
Many aboriginal people consider sharks their spirit animal, helping connect them to the land and sea from which their ancestors rose.
Unlike many cultures which see sharks as threats, the aboriginal culture sees sharks as a critical part of the ecosystem. There is no fear of sharks – they are worthy of respect and symbolize independence and power in nature.
Sharks and Christianity have a complex history. The Bible doesn’t specifically mention sharks, but many interpretations of the Bible mention them as devil incarnates and symbols of sin. Conversely, they can represent god’s power and will.
Some biblical stories are linked to sharks. For example, Jonah was eaten by a big fish after being thrown overboard in Jonah and the Whale. That big fish could be a shark – again, this is a matter of interpretation.
Shark Tattoo Meaning
Sharks are powerful, strong, intelligent, and authoritative, so shark tattoos perfectly represent these qualities. Having a shark tattoo demonstrates you are strong and cunning – qualities that make sharks successful.
If we read into the symbolization of shark tattoos more, they symbolize that life is full of abundant opportunities, just like fish in the ocean. They also represent an aggressive lust for life and a relentless quest for achievement.
Shark tattoos are also meaningful in many cultures, such as Polynesian culture, where they symbolize empowerment, protection, and power.
Hammerhead shark tattoo
In Polynesian culture, Hammerhead shark tattoos are said to protect sailors and swimmers from man-eating sharks. In modern culture, they symbolize a guardian – perfect for parents and people who serve in the military.
Great white tattoo
The great white shark is an apex predator with unequaled aggression. Great white tattoos symbolize raw power and an aggressive lust for life, but they can also symbolize danger, and they are a popular choice in some gangs.
Tiger shark tattoo
The tiger shark’s sleek profile and dark, vertical stripes are unmistakable. Tiger shark tattoos symbolize stamina, speed, and an underdog attitude. Tiger sharks are adaptable and make the most of every hunting situation.
Shark pack tattoos
Shark pack tattoos are a popular symbol of family and friendship, especially with men wanting a masculine tattoo. A daddy, mummy, and baby shark symbolize a growing family, and you can add additional sharks over time.
Tribal shark tattoos
Shark tattoos in the tribal style are elegant and exciting, evoking a sense of artistry and mystery. They demonstrate power and strength and a connection to the island cultures of Samoa, Hawaii, and the Maori people of New Zealand.
Cartoon shark tattoo meaning
Cartoon shark tattoos don’t have significant cultural meaning but evoke childhood memories. The most popular options are jabber Jaw, Shark Take, Lenny the Shark, and Bruce from Finding Nemo.
Shark Watercolor Tattoo
Is a shark tattoo right for you?
Tattoos are a personal choice, and there are no rules for what’s right and wrong. Your heritage and culture might have a deep connection to sharks, or you might like them after watching a few shows on the Discovery channel.
Sharks make awesome tattoos in any case because they have legends, myths, and ancient cultures that worshipped them. This gives them substance beyond other subjects, and they can be real conversation starters with tattoo lovers.
Getting a shark tattoo demonstrates independence and resourcefulness, but some art – such as wide-open jaws – can evoke a sense of danger.
If you want a masculine, stylish tattoo, you can do much worse than a shark, especially when you want something that evokes a sense of protection. We recommend working with a tattoo artist to ensure it matches your personality.
Recommended: Don’t miss our guide to ship tattoos and their symbolism next!