Giraffe Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Giraffe Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Giraffe tattoos are cool looking, but what exactly do they mean? 

Tribes in Africa historically used giraffe tattoos to symbolize the grace, intelligence, and adaptability of a giraffe. In today’s culture, these tattoos also showcase the uniqueness of this animal’s design. 

If you are in the market today for a giraffe tattoo but want to know more about its meaning, look no further! In this article, I will be breaking down everything you need to know about giraffe tattoos.


What is the History of Giraffe Tattoos?

African tribes were some of the first to partake in tattoo art. African tribes long ago recognized the beauties that giraffes revealed and would tattoo the image of one on themselves.

Giraffemania hit Europe in 1827 when the viceroy of Egypt gifted the animal to the rulers of Britain, France, and Austria. Thousands of people came to see these wonders of nature, creating a mass phenomenon.

Everyone wanted to memorialize the giraffes around them, whether in their belongings or bodies. Over a hundred years later, the phenomenon continued as people were still fascinated with these wondrous animals. Looking for other ways to memorialize these creatures and what they symbolize, individuals turned to tattoo parlors and still do today. 


What do Giraffe Tattoos Symbolize?

Giraffe tattoos symbolize a host of different aspects of the animal, such as:

  • Gracefulness
  • Adaptability
  • Intelligence
  • Uniqueness


While giraffes are often considered clumsy creatures due to their odd proportions and long legs, they are also quite graceful. Despite their awkward legs, giraffes mostly move swiftly with elegance.


Because of their survival characteristics, giraffes are one of the most adaptable creatures in the world. These long-necked wonders can survive without water for weeks and adapt to any habitat as long as they have a food source. This aspect makes them a symbol of adaptability.


On top of being incredibly adaptable, giraffes are very intelligent. Tribes in Africa have noted this for centuries, using the giraffe as a symbol of intelligence and grace in their own cultures. 

Giraffes are intelligent because of how quickly they adapt to their surroundings. They are also considered wise because of their height and keen eyesight. This height, paired with their excellent vision, helps prevent them from predator attacks. 


Giraffes are one of the most unique-looking animals on the planet. When first found, scientists could not classify them with other species.

This natural uniqueness is part of what makes them so beautiful. Many people choose to get them as tattoos to celebrate their unique qualities. 


What do Giraffe Tattoos Mean?

A tattoo of a giraffe tells a lot of people about you. While individual meaning can play a part in the meaning behind a tattoo, here are some general things that a tattoo of a giraffe could mean: 

  • You are resourceful
  • You are graceful
  • You are unique
  • You may have tribal African ancestry


If you have a giraffe tattoo, it might mean that you are resourceful. You do not break from difficulty but find a way to survive it. You have high intelligence and are pretty adaptable in any scenario. 


A giraffe tattoo might showcase how graceful you are as a person. While others might see you as clumsy, maybe you have a silent grace about you. 


Tattoos of giraffes also depict you as a unique person. Like a giraffe, you are proud of who you are- spots and all. You do not shy away from self-expression. 

African Ancestry

If you have African roots, you may get a giraffe as a tattoo. Giraffe tattoos can remind you of the kind of person you should be in life- You should be peaceful and assured but not too proud or aggressive. You should also be willing to fight if confronted. 

Sometimes in tribal culture, it also showed a sense of keeping one’s head above the crowd. 


Where do Giraffe Tattoos Usually Go?

Giraffe tattoos usually go on shoulders, arms, backs, legs, or thighs. 

However, you can choose to put the tattoo anywhere you would like. Some people opt to place them on fingers or behind the ear. Because of their unique shape, giraffe tattoos can easily go on body parts that other animal tattoos cannot. 


Characteristics and Styles of Giraffe Tattoos

When you get a giraffe tattoo, you will have to decide on other important factors too. 

One key style question is whether you want the whole body of the giraffe or just the head. Both are popular options. Often people will choose to get the full-body if they get a smaller tattoo. Many opt for just the head for larger tattoos and fill the space with unique flowers or other design aspects. 

Here are some other popular characteristics or styles for you to consider!

  • Family
  • Cartoon
  • Foliage
  • Patterned

Family Style

Many people choose to get animal tattoos to depict family. This style is popular with a giraffe by having a larger and smaller one together. This design is lovely for mothers and their children. 


Some people choose a cute cartoonish depiction of a giraffe for their tattoo. The cartoonish style is perfect if you want a little fun art on your body.


Many giraffe tattoos, both whole body and head, have floral arrangements around them. Full-body giraffes often have a tree or other foliage nearby, whereas flowers surround a head tattoo.

If you are getting this tattoo to emphasize your African roots, many will have the natural foliage of that area showcased around the giraffe. 


One popular thing to do with giraffe tattoos is to opt out of using their natural pattern and instead use something else. Fun pattern substitutions could include geometric shapes, mandalas, or anything your imagination can create! 



Giraffe tattoos are excellent ideas for those who want to showcase their individuality and resourcefulness. It is also a great tattoo for those with African heritage to harken back to their ancestors. With the many different styles and characteristic options for giraffe tattoos, your only limit is your imagination.

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