Let’s take a look at all the meanings of the bear paw or bear claw tattoo, with pictures for inspiration to find the perfect design before you head to the tattoo studio.
Bear Claw Tattoo / Bear Paw Tattoo Designs
Polar bears, teddy bears, black bear and brown bear… each one brings up a different connotation and meaning when you bring them to mind.
But what does it mean if you get a bear claw tattoo, or a paw print tattoo?
In Native American culture, the bear is seen as a symbol of power and the bear claw is a symbol found in Native American totem poles.
The bear is a highly regarded animal in native cultures and the bear paw symbolises strength and healing.
A softer rendition of the bear claw is a symbol of maternity – like a mama bear. This beautiful meaning symbolises the powerful protective love of a mother, and how we would do anything to protect our children just like the Mother bear. This meaning is linked with gentle spirited strength.
As you can see, the bear paw print tattoo and bear tattoo designs can have multiple connotations and mean different things depending on how the tattoo is designed and presented.
Spiritually, the bear has connotations with growth, hibernation and evolving, relying on our inner reserves, and looking within.
This relates to the courage to evolve and trust our own instincts.
In Japan, the bear is a symbol of resilience.
Here are some of the common meanings and deeper meanings associated with different type of bear symbol and claw print tattoos.
Discuss with your tattoo artist to find the best bear tattoo idea for you.
Black Bear tattoos
A black bear tattoo symbolises solitude, hibernation and rest. This has a powerful of inner strength, and finding our own power within.
Combine the image of the black bear with the symbol of the bear claw
Polar Bear Tattoos
Polar bear is the most common type of bear for white bear tattoos. These symbolise protection, love and strength.
For artic people, the polar bear is a symbol of protection and skilful hunting abilities.
Grizzly bear Tattoos
The Grizzly bear is another name for the North American Brown Bear.
Some Native American tribes believed the brown bear had control over the elements, particularly Wind.
Koala Bear tattoos
Koalas have a strong link to Australia, and are one of the gentlest softest bear tattoos.
Koala bears are an international symbol of kindness and calm. Koalas are also known for their hugs.
Panda Bear Tattoo
Panda bears are a symbol of good luck in chinese culture. So not only are these beautiful bears extremely cute but a panda tattoo also symbolises good fortune.
Celtic Bear Tattoo
This is a traditionally masculine tattoo said to be worn by men who fear neither the darkness of Winter, nor death.
This is a warrior tattoo, and is often combined with celtic knots for added symbolism.
Mountain Bear Tattoo
Combine the symbol of the bear claw with the mountain, to symbolise adventure and wild
California Bear Tattoo
The California bear is shown on the state flate, so a tattoo of the California bear shows a tie to this state or can symbolise exploration and self-discovery.
Paw Print Tattoo
As well as being a great way of symbolising a love of your pet or an affinity to a certain animal, paw prints symbolise movement and this meaning of paw print tattoos is linked to the concept of moving forward.
Teddy Bear Tattoo
The teddy bear tattoo meaning is a bit different to the other types of bear or bear claw tattoo.
This is a much softer, and more childish playful meaning symbolising a connection with childhood, innocence and imagination.
It symbolises love and affection and is a popular memorial tattoo for a child who has passed away.
Family Bear Paws Tattoo
Include a trail of multiple bear paws to symbolise each family member
Wild Flowers and Bear Claw
Combining the wild strength of the bear with the wild softness of wild flowers
Ursa Major Great Bear Constellation
The Latin name of the constellation means Great Bear, so this tattoo design is a way to link the symbol of the bear with the stars and the night sky.
Bear Claw Design Inspiration
Here are a few of the basic bear claw and bear paw shapes to use as a jumping off point for your own tattoo design whether you go with simple black ink, or a starting point for more intricate designs.
Note – Bears have five toes on their paws. If you see a design with four claws, it may be a wolf or a dog.
Sharp Bear Claws Paw Print
Softer Bear Claws
Bear claws paw print
Series of Paws
(you can swap these out for bear paws)
Outline bear paw designs
Bear Paws with Heart
Overall the bear claw tattoo is a symbol of strength, physical strength, resilience, protection, motherhood, personal growth and evolution after hibernation.
Such tattoos are powerful and deeply meaningful within many different cultures and different people.
More Tattoo Designs
We hope you found this bear paw tattoo meaning guide useful.
Ink lovers will also want to check out our guides for more tattoo ideas
- 40 Most symbolic tattoo designs.
- Star Tattoo Meanings
- 16 Powerful Celtic Symbols for Self Love
- 25+ Beautiful Arabic Tattoo Designs and Their Meanings
- Cheetah Print Tattoo Meaning Symbolism and Inspiration
Or if you’re going for something more temporary
Send this blog post to friends and family to share ideas for your future tattoos, and get inspiration.
Anna is a Wales-based writer and graduate from SOAS University of London.
As the voice behind On Your Journey, she empowers women to embrace holistic well-being and spiritual growth through her expert insights into wellness and symbolism.
When she isn't writing thought-provoking articles, you'll find her busy crafting and raising her 4 children.