Hellhound Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Hellhound Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Dogs have been spending their time with mankind since pretty much the dawn of time. It’s only natural that many myths would spring up about them and one popular tale around the world is about the Hellhound. Naturally, they appear in our skin art, but what does it mean?

Today we’re going to answer this question as best we can so get comfortable and let’s talk about Hellhound tattoos – their symbolism, meanings, and more!


What is the History of Hellhound Tattoos?

Around the world, you’ll find tales about our loyal dogs carrying on their faithful service even into the afterlife, and the most common theme for Hellhounds is that they guard the ways into the next world. In Norse mythology, we have Garmr, who guards Hel’s gate, but the most famous Hellhound is likely the Greek Cerberus.

This watchdog of Hades had many heads, with the most common representation being 3, though the poet Hesiod of the 7th century claimed the Hellhound to have as many as 50 – as he had snakes growing from his back to go with the dog’s heads and a serpent’s tail!

Hellhounds weren’t limited to guard duty, however, as the Fairy legends of old state that the Fair Folk had their own Hellhounds, which chased many a hapless mortal, especially during the time of the Wild Hunt – when Hellhounds and angry spirits would hunt humans, often accompanied by nobles of the Fey.

To some folks, they were also considered to be the hounds of the Devil himself… Needless to say, there’s enough folklore in this option to make an almost endless supply of unique designs, making them pretty much the equivalent of gold in the skin art world!


What Do Hellhound Tattoos Symbolize?

Hellhounds evoke an interesting symbolism. They have all the loyalty of dogs, but with brutal and sinister overtones. Depicted with a mythological creature, they can reflect this, although a Hellhound all alone could symbolize that loyalties have been dropped and that the brutality or even revenge is now what’s left.

Hellhounds can also symbolize a dark loyalty – after all, these creatures were said to guard the gates of the afterlife and the world beyond, and sometimes in the human world we are tasked with unsavory, but necessary things.

Thus, one might wear the Hellhound as a way to say that they sometimes effect the cause of these necessarily evils. They don’t really have to embody any symbolism, though, as they have a unique and dark aesthetic that is quite enough reason to get one on its own.

The sight of the often-fiery, black dogs invokes a primal feeling of fear when they are viewed, simply because it’s been ingrained into us from years of familiarity that there is very little in this world more dangerous than a fierce dog blocking your path that answers to someone else!


What Do Hellhound Tattoos Mean?

Hellhound tattoos have a wide range of meanings. For instance, they are a popular choice for many who have served in the military, indicating that they are deadly and loyal to their country or their cause.

Hellhounds may also be worn by those who feel that their loyalties have chained them and they’ve had enough – with a lone, flaming hound warning the world that they are now their own creature and a force to be reckoned with.

They don’t even have to be so heavy, as one might depict a Hellhound licking an ice cream, with an angry devil nearby, as a way to shown that the owner is fierce, but they’ve ‘broken their training’ and decided on a lighter and friendlier course in life.

It’s a well-known but of imagery that is full of almost countless interpretations, making Hellhound tattoos a fun and aesthetically pleasing choice that you can really do a lot with.


Where Do Hellhound Tattoos Usually Go?

With military-themed Hellhounds, spots like the upper shoulder or even the forearm may apply, though the shoulder has the lead for popularity as military tattoos often need to be concealed against instant recognition.

For non-military Hellhound, though, the sky is the limit, but they are usually placed somewhere with high visibility. The outer arm, for instance, above the elbow but below the shoulder, is one of the most common placements for this sort of design.

That said, for some truly amazing work (and especially with Cerberus tattoos), the back might be selected for the sheer amount of space where your artist can show off their mastery of realism and brilliant colors.

Finally, a Hellhound on the hip sends quite the interesting message, as well, and definitely makes the onlooker stop and think when they stumble upon that particular skin art choice!


Characteristics and Styles of Hellhound Tattoos

Hellhounds are almost always depicted at their most vicious, but there’s no hard and fast rule. A cartoony, New School Hellhound can be either comical or deeply disturbing, depending on your design. Japanese style is also quite the good-looking option for you, as well.

In Japan, the Okuri-Inu Hellhounds hunt the unwary on mountain passes when the sun goes down, and you can find them depicted in art and get some serious inspiration for your own Japanese style Hellhound.

Find the design that calls to you and check out styles next, by means of the portfolios of the artists that you are considering for the work. Not only will this show you exactly what they can do, but there’s a high chance that you’ll see something to make your own design even better!


Closing comments on Hellhound Tattoos

It’s official – there is much more to Hellhounds than meets the eye and while we’ve tried to be thorough, a little search on ‘Hellhound Myths’ on your favorite search engine will show you that we’ve barely touched the surface.

These creatures has captivated our imagination for a long, long time, so if you are looking for something that is fierce and that haunts us on a primal level, then you might do well to consider Hellhound tattoos. They really send out a unique vibe that you just can’t get with anything else!

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