The saber-toothed tiger is a fearsome, bold, and dangerous animal that went extinct around 11,700 years ago. As a strong feline, it can symbolize strength, power, and feline beauty.
Thanks to its association with the popular X-Men comic book and movie franchise, it is also linked to the villainous character called Sabertooth.
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, this article lists everything you need to know about this fascinating animal. This includes the history of this type of tattoo, the symbolism and meaning of its iconography, and where people usually get tattoos like these placed on their bodies.
What are saber-toothed tigers?
Saber-toothed tigers are an extinct type of carnivorous cat that roamed North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa between 56 million and 11,700 years ago.
They are also commonly known as the saber-toothed cat, saber-toothed predator, and saber-toothed lion. As you might imagine, they get their name from their elongated, blade-like canine teeth that descend from their upper jaws.
There were many types of saber-toothed tigers in the past, but they were all large and bear-like. They were excellent predators, able to hunt and kill large animals such as the mastodon, sloths, and mammoths.
They became extinct when their main sources of food died out and we know of them from an extensive fossil record.
What is the history of saber-tooth tiger tattoos?
Human beings have always enjoyed tattooing animals onto their skin. It’s not hard to understand why – they are a powerful, beautiful, and intimidating part of the world around us.
In recent times, animals like the dominant silverback gorilla, strong boa constrictor, and predatory wolves and bears have dominated the market for animal tattoos. None, however, have been as popular in the world of tattooing as the Panthera, or ‘big cat’.
They became popular around the start of the 20th century when big wild cats were caged in zoos over the world and people could easily see them. The most admired were the exotic and dangerous big cats like lions, panthers, and tigers. Known from the fossil record since the 1830s, saber-toothed tigers were part of this popularity.
The saber-tooth tiger is also part of the widely-popular X-Men comic book and movie franchise when the villainous character Sabertooth was introduced in 1977.
What does the saber-tooth symbolize?
An X-Men villain
The character of Sabretooth is as bad as they get. A former serial killer, he has beast-like strength and can heal quickly. He also has sharp fangs and claws like his extinct namesake and works as a merciless assassin.
The seers of ancient Mexico believed that saber-toothed tigers could experience the world beyond our reality. With the capacity for deep and expansive breathing, they believed that this species could tap into different states of perception, so much so that they have not, in fact, gone extinct.
Megafauna is a group of oversized animals that roamed the Earth up to 11,700 million years ago. Weighing between 40 and 1,000 kilograms, they were literal giants who would dwarf most animals alive today. The saber-toothed tiger is a fearsome representative of this group of fascinating animals.
Strength and power
With giant canines up to 25 centimeters long, a powerful jaw, and the gait of a bear, saber-toothed tigers are the epitome of strength and power.
Saber-toothed tigers are now extinct. Despite being one of the most powerful predators that ever walked the Earth, they succumbed when their food ran out. Around 99% of all species that ever lived have gone extinct, which is over five billion species. And the saber-toothed tiger is just a drop in the ocean of that number.
Felines, or cats, have always been popular animals. From our domesticated house cats to the most fearsome predators in the wild, they are often seen as aloof, indifferent, callous, and cruel.
What does a saber-tooth tattoo mean?
As predators in control of their environment, they are in control and can be seen as protectors of others.
As a physically-capable animal, it is a classic symbol of strength.
In many cultures, the tiger is an animal that lives beyond the physical realm, away from the mortal needs of humans and other animals.
One’s essential nature
There’s a saying that a ‘tiger cannot change its stripes’. This means that it is, essentially, impossible to change one’s true nature. No matter how hard you try, or the people you might be able to fool, you will always be the same at your core, for good or bad.
Why do people choose to get these tattoos?
People get saber-tooth tattoos because they represent:
- A popular character from the X-Men franchise
- Actor Liev Schreiber, who portrayed the character Sabertooth
- The extinct and fearsome megafauna family of saber-toothed animals
- Feline strength and power
What are the most popular types of saber-tooth tiger tattoos?
For the most part, saber-tooth tattoos are large, bold, colorful, and detailed. Although simple and small depictions do occur, most of these types of tattoos celebrate the art of inking. They are usually large and intricate, with detailed lines and shading for a realistic, photograph-like depiction.
For X-Men fans, their Sabertooth tattoos usually follow one of the many comic book depictions of a fearsome man with blond hair, claws, and large teeth. They can also resemble the movie character that was played by actor Live Schreiber.
Where do people usually get these types of tattoos?
Saber-toothed tattoos are usually inked to make an impact. They are great on the body in places that get a lot of sunlight such as the calf and forearm. They can also feature across the whole of the back or even the abdomen.
Is this tattoo right for you?
The saber-toothed tiger is an animal of power, strength, precision, and, ultimately, fallibility. If you are after a feline tattoo, other options like a lion, tiger, or panther better represent the qualities of traditional feline symbols. However, if you are drawn to the idea of a powerful animal that was ultimately brought down by the environment around it, this tattoo might be the right one for you.