Humans have been fascinated with animals for thousands of years and over that time we have imbued them with many meanings. For some groups of people, animals can even be totems with spiritual significance. Animals like the hare, which are prolific breeders and difficult to control, are popular symbols of deception and trickery, as well as fertility.
If you want an easily-recognizable tattoo that has both positive and negative meanings, this tattoo might be right for you.
This article outlines the history of the hare tattoo and all its possible meanings. You will also read about the animal and the ways in which people tend to get their tattoos inked.
What is the Hare?
It is a small, herbivorous mammal that is often mistaken for the smaller and more widely-known rabbit. However, it is more closely related to the jackrabbit. Rabbit species have been domesticated and are loved as pets or processed for meat or fur, but hares are untamed and they only live in the wild.
While rabbits live underground in burrows, hares live solitary lives or in pairs, in simple nests above the ground. They are faster, tougher, and hardier than rabbits. However, they are alike in one key characteristic: they breed frequently and successfully.
Hares are native to Africa, Eurasia, and North America and are widespread throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, in warm to temperate climates.
How is the Hare Represented in Folklore and Mythology?
In widespread African folklore, it is a trickster: fast on its feet, cunning and easily hidden. His legacy can be seen in the story of Brer Rabbit, which is popular folklore among African slaves who had been shipped to the Americas. The character succeeds using his wit rather than brawn.
In First Nations Algonquin folklore, the Great Hare is an honored co-creator of the world.
In ancient Egypt, the animal was involved in creation through its fertility, procreation, and subsequent immortality. It was connected to Osiris, the god of resurrection.
In some Chinese and Japanese legends, it is a supernatural creature that lives in the moon, where it grinds away to create the elixir of life.
In English folklore, the saying ‘as mad as a March hare’ is connected to the animals’ mating behavior. In the month of March each year, the males of the normally-solitary European hare (Lepus europaeus) come together to fight for females. They behave erratically, usually standing on their hind legs, resembling boxers sparring in the ring.
In Greek mythology, the animal was sacred to Aphrodite, the ancient goddess of sexual love and beauty, as well as Eros, the mischievous god of love. With a high libido and even higher reproduction rate, it is certainly an apt symbol for physical love and reproduction.
Perhaps the most famous of Aesop’s fables is the Tortoise and the Hare. In the story, the swift hare loses a race to the slow but steady tortoise because of hubris, impatience, haste, and over-confidence.
The Anglo-Saxon goddess Ēostre lends her name to the Christian religious festival of Easter. It has long been associated with the rabbit and, even earlier, the hare.
The ‘Three Hares’ symbol has three animals chasing each other in a circle, all the while sharing three ears between them. The symbol is very old, with connections to Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist sites from as early as 600 BCE. It is thought to be associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, or perhaps the trinity of some Christian traditions.
What Does the Hare Tattoo Symbolize?
It is an enigmatic animal that is celebrated for its positive qualities like hardiness, and fertility, but also derided for what is perceived to be negative, like trickery, and over-confidence. Hare tattoos can also symbolize:
It is a fast animal and it can run up to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) over short distances. Early European Goths praised the hare’s swiftness and revered it as a symbol of diligence.
Happiness and Luck
In the Chinese zodiac, the hare is the happiest of all the animals. It is believed to bring luck to whoever is born under that sign or has it tattooed on their body.
With speed, cunning, and intelligence, the animal is the perfect symbol of misdirection, illusion, and magic. In the legend of the White Hare, a witch transforms into a white animal to hunt for her prey at night.
The animal is born complete with fur and its eyes open. They are independent and able to look after themselves not long after birth. With little in the way of physical protection other than speed and intelligence, they have to work hard to survive.
Swiftness and timidity
In the European tradition, they are both swift and timid.
In Hebrew culture, it is a symbol of contemplation and intuition, as well as light.
‘Mad as a March Hare’
Today the phrase can be used to describe any person who behaves in an unpredictable or excitable way.
Why Do People Choose to Get This Tattoo?
People who choose to get this tattoo might value the meanings mentioned above, or even the virtues of sensitivity, artistry, ambition, and fitness. This is despite the negative connotations such as greed and selfishness.
Typically, women are more likely to get a hare tattoo than men, as its positive connotations include intelligence, independence, sexuality, fertility, and swiftness in mild rather than domineering and masculine forms.
What Types of Hare tattoos Are There?
People tend to get one of two main types of hare tattoos: naturalistic, or stylized and cartoonish.
The stylized and cartoonish type of tattoo would suit a person when the meaning is connected to the animal’s association with trickery, happiness, and even fertility.
For those who value its mythologic associations, the hare would be best depicted in the ancient style. For example, there are plenty of visual representations of the hare from ancient Egypt.
The hare is a beautiful and noble-looking animal, with deep fur and long ears. A naturalistic depiction would suit those for whom the meaning is associated with its known natural characteristics like independence, speed, and fertility.
So, is this Tattoo Right for You?
The hare is an unassuming yet deceptively robust animal and it would be appropriate for someone who values its natural attributes like speed and independence, is not deterred by its negative connotations, or has an affinity with one of the many folklores.
If you have an independent and hardy streak this tattoo might be the one for you!