Bison Tattoo Meaning, Designs & Ideas

One popular animal tattoo is the bison. These tattoos represent different things, including strength and survival. Bison tattoos can also symbolize endurance, resilience, and abundance. The bison tattoo has special meaning for Native Americans as well.

In this article, we will consider the different meanings of bison tattoos.

All About Bison

Bison are a type of mammal from the bovine family which also includes buffalo and cows. The American bison are found throughout North America while the European bison are found in countries in Europe. 

The bison is a large animal which can grow over six feet tall and weigh over 2000 pounds. They have massive heads, horns, long hair, and hooved feet. These mammals are also fast and capable of running up to 35 miles per hour.

Bison are herbivores, eating plants, shrubs, and trees. They live in groups called herds. Because of their large size and strength, they do not have a lot of predators other than wolves and bears. Humans are the main threat to bison.

Bison Tattoos

Tattoos of bison are often found on the arm as well as the upper thigh, back, chest, and torso. Both color and black and gray tattoos are common. Bison tattoos are usually medium to large in size, reflecting the strength and size of the animal.

Some bison tattoos show the entire body of the animal while others just display the head. These tattoos are often realistic illustrations, though there are tribal designs done as well. A lot of bison tattoos will incorporate other aspects of nature, such as the sun, moon, stars, trees, or mountains.

Indigenous Significance

The bison have been significant to many Native American tribes in North America for hundreds of years. These animals are considered sacred and provide a lot of resources to people. In addition to eating the meat of the bison, people also use the skin, hair, and bones of the animal to make clothing, shelter, blankets, knives, and drums.

An Indigenous person may choose to get a bison tattoo to represent their culture. The tattoo shows how important this animal has been to their people throughout the years. People might get this tattoo out of respect for the animal and all that it has provided for them.


The bison can represent abundance because of its ability to provide the necessities of life to people. This animal can offer sustenance, shelter, and clothing through its hair, skin, and flesh. It also symbolizes abundance because, at one time, there was a large population of them in North America.

A person may choose to get a tattoo of a bison because they are hoping to attract more prosperity in their life. Someone who is seeking more work, more love, or more health might see this tattoo as a way to obtain that abundance. Alternatively, this tattoo can represent a person’s acceptance that they already have everything they need.


Just by looking at an image of a bison, you can see that it is an incredibly strong animal. Their large size and horns show that they have great strength and are able to defend themselves. Because of these traits, there are not many animals who attempt to kill the bison.

People may opt to get a bison tattoo because they want an image that represents strength and power. They might choose this tattoo to symbolize physical power or mental strength. A person may already be very strong or they may want the tattoo to motivate them to increase their power.

Resilience and Survival

The bison is also a symbol of survival since it has overcome many threats to its existence over time. At one time, the bison were hunted so much that they almost became extinct. Despite this, the bison has continued to live on in North America and in Europe. It has become an animal that represents resilience and the ability to persist in the midst of challenges.

One reason a person may get a bison tattoo is that they want an animal that symbolizes survival and resilience. An individual who has overcome great struggles in their life often wants to memorialize this with a tattoo. Whether they have lived through trauma, illness, or other hardship, a bison tattoo is a great choice to illustrate one’s strength in adversity.


Though the number of bison in the wild today is much lower than it used to be, at one point, there were abundant herds of bison. These animals roamed freely throughout the land, traveling wherever they pleased. In this way, the bison represents a certain freedom that is enviable to many people.

A person may opt to get a bison tattoo because they are looking for an image that represents their desire to be free. Maybe they are looking for an escape from the life that they are living and hoping to move on to something more suitable. Or the person may love traveling and exploring new lands. Either way, the bison tattoo is a symbol of being free.

Sports Teams

There are several sports teams that use the bison as their mascot and in their team name. In the United States, there are several universities that have athletic teams named after the bison. These include Bucknell University, Howard University, North Dakota State University, Harding University, and Oklahoma Baptist University.

In Canada, the Wainwright Bisons and the Okotoks Bisons are two hockey teams that play in Alberta. The University of Manitoba in Winnipeg also has sports teams named after the bison, including hockey, football, and basketball teams. The United Kingdom and France also have hockey teams featuring the bison.

Current or former members of these athletic teams may choose to get a bison tattoo. This is one way of memorializing their time spent playing sports. Coaching staff or other affiliated employees may also choose to get a bison tattoo. For many people, sports are a huge part of their life, and getting a tattoo helps to keep those memories alive.

Featured image by Deanna Wardin, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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