Foo dogs are a mythological Asian creature designed to protect people from harm. It is for this very reason that many people decide to get them inked onto their skin. A foo dog is actually a lion, and they may look scary and menacing – which is why guys are more likely to have them tattooed than girls.
Foo dog tattoos are steeped in Asian religion and culture. Though they are named “foo dog” they are actually lions meant to represent guardianship. As you begin scrolling through the blog, you’ll see what we mean. They don’t look anything like dogs so it’s somewhat comical that they are named after such an animal. These might beasts are commonly known to watch over and protect their people. They were placed in front of important (and still are to this day) in order to not allow evil spirits to enter. Foo dogs represent prosperity and success and are known to be thought of as courageous and fearless. Their main role in Buddhist religion was to watch over and guard the religious temple. If you’ve ever been to a temple, you’ve seen their statues guarding the entryways. There are typically two foo dogs, one on each post.
But here’s a fun fact for you: in reality, they also represent a variety of breeds such as the Shih Tzu, Chow Chow, Pug, French Bulldog and others. People get these types of tattoos in order protect themselves, but there’s so much more to it than that. It could represent protection or it could also mean that the person feels like they are the protector. They are such a wide array of meanings and each is usually unique to the artist. From the coloring shade to whether you choose one foo dog or two, there’s lots to consider when designing your art.
Why do people get Foo Dog tattoos?
People who get the Foo Dog tattooed on their bodies are often doing it as a representation that they are being guarded and protected by the ferocious lion. They feel like it’s symbolic and they feel protected in a sense. With it’s pointy ears and piercing eyes, it looks like a beast that means business. They are threatening and have an aura of ferocity. If your interested in this type of art, start thinking about what it means to you. Think back over your life and see if you can pinpoint a time where you felt scared and wished you had protection. Maybe there’s been a time in your life when you felt unsafe but now with your new tattoo, you’ll feel safe and untouchable. Or perhaps you feel like a guardian and this tattoo represents you as the protector. Regardless of why you choose to get the foo dog, take a little tie and decide what coloring and imagery is right for you. If you like to draw, perhaps sketch some ideas to show your tattoo artist so that they embody what you’re looking for in your art. Below are some awesome representations that you’ll love.
- Check out the powerful arms the tattoo below encompasses. This is a unique embodiment of what this person probably claims as their religion. The entire art is spun off of Buddhism. As you’ll see throughout this blog, a lot of the Foo Dog ink takes up quite a bit of space of people’s backs. The colors here are really vibrant and cause the eye to wander all over his back, taking in all the different images.
2) The black and white line work here really makes the figures standout and pop. It appears that all their “powers” are being put into the crown below them. This took a lot of time and the attention to detail is exceptional. This probably didn’t happen in one sitting so as you decide what type of work you’d like done, know you may have to book a few appointments before it’s completely finished. The skin backdrop really offsets the entire piece. Though it’s not very colorful, it is very eye catching.
3) Often, foo dogs were placed in front of areas that the people wanted protected such as burial grounds, government institutes and temples. This particular foo dog appears to be guarding this guy’s stomach. Check out the attention to detail in his face. You can place your foo dog in many different areas on your body and the dog can doing a variety of things. For instance, this foo dog is standing on his front legs with his hind legs extending upward as if he’s warding off something evil.
4) This artwork has a lot of detail happening in the face and is in contrast to the rest of the work done on the arm. The purple hues really cause it to pop when you first see it. The overall robust appearance of this particular foo dog almost makes him look a little jolly and not quite so threatening. They don’t all have to be scary and this guy is a great example. He almost seems like a lovable cartoon character. Do you think the artist intended for him to be less threatening?
Like any tattoo, you can place it wherever you like. A few things to consider as you decide the best place for you are the following: Do you want it to be visible to the public? Would you rather it be more private? Do you mind if people stare? Do you mind being asked questions about your tattoo? Most people place foo dogs on their arms, legs or outer thigh. They want it to be seen because it’s origin comes from being protected and watched over therefore they want people to be able to see it. In ancient religion, it was thought to ward off evil spirits.
It’s popular to place this particular tattoo on the arm, shoulder, back and stomach. As it is considered a protector, having it close to your heart is representative of protecting your life. Where would you get your piece done?
5) Check out the amazing line work here. The attention to detail is very well done and it creates an ominous beast. Would you rather have color in your foo dog? The eyes are so crazy looking. It looks like a wild beast that is about to go nuts!
6) The vivid colors of this artwork makes a fierce and foreboding character. Did you know that foo dogs are really lions and are meant to be paired together? The flower is beautiful imagery and probably means something significant to the artist. You can tell by the gleam of the ink that this piece was probably recently done.
7) Can you find the foo dog here? Check out his forearm. This tattoo is extensive and is a few tattoos that flow beautifully to create a really gorgeous overall look. It’s cool how the dragon wraps around his arm with his head protruding over his shoulder.
8) The shading here really emphasizes the overall darkness emanating from the design. The look of this lion is strength and stature. Above the imagery is writing that may signify what the image is supposed to represent. The black, billowing clouds bring out the scary anthem in this piece. This is an upper arm, half sleeve tattoo. Think he’ll commit and finish his arm off?
As you can see, there are many variations to the color palette of a foo dog. A lot of people stick with the traditional colors. The foo dogs were red with purple dots and usually had red eyes. They were typically more colorful in nature. Originally foo dogs were placed outside and were marble, stone or concrete which ties in nicely with work done in black and white. Others choose to do various levels of shading to emphasize different features of the work.
9) The elbow is a gnarly spot to get a tattoo. Props to this guy for taking the pain like a champ and getting an awesome piece of work in the process. Would you get an elbow tattoo? This particular piece looks like he’s in the middle of one fierce battle!
10) We liked this one particularly because they used the geometric shapes that are coming back into style as well as a variety different colors. The line work here is extensive and creates quite an intimidating create. The dog looks like a dragon in this picture. Have you noticed how some look like a cross between a lion and a dragon?
11) This type of art is meant to look scary. It’s supposed to ward off evil. What do you think? Would you like to have this on your body? The blood is representative of war and is in stark contract to the rest of the work.
12) The stone like quality to this tattoo is more representative to the original foo dog in ancient culture. If you’ve even seen them sitting on balconies or on front porches, this is a pretty real replica of what they usually look like. The wide mouth, piercing eyes and angry prow really encompasses the statues. It’s interesting how they have flowers in the background. It’s almost like they are saying that the foo dog protects in order to promote peace.
Which gender usually gets this tattoo?
This sort of tattoo imagery is typically used more often by males just because of it’s fierce nature. But, as you can see, this woman has a very beautiful piece of art down her back. The colors here really compliment her skin tones and look fantastic. It can definitely be gender neutral but in the past, most men opt for this.
14) This is another example of the stone like quality that is still popular outside homes today. The flowers seems to once again to be promoting peace amidst chaos.
To get or not to get, that is the real question.
When considering whether a tattoo is right for you, think about your lifestyle and how it could possibly affect it. Read over what your job has to say about tattoos and make sure the placement you choose falls within the correct parameters or can be easily covered up. Another option for covering up a tattoo is using makeup. You may not want to apply makeup every single time you go to work so taking in all the different ways your tattoo can affect you is important. Once you’ve taken all those things into consideration, find an artist you trust and start creating a masterpiece.
15) Nice line work here but does anyone see that photo bombing pup in the back? The attention to detail here is stunning from the top of his calf all the way down to his ankle. The black coloring around his ankle looks really good.
16) This guy committed and went all in. His entire back is covered with Asian culture imagery. The overall fluidity of colors looks quite great. What do you think? Could you cover your entire back? We would love to hear the story of how this piece came about, it’s so beautiful.
17) Here’s an example of a leg tattoo that is very popular. The shading and line work and attention to detail is stunning and life like. The added roses really set it off to make it seem like it’s really guarding this guy. As you can see, getting the foo dog on the calf is another popular spot.
18) Half arm onto the shoulder foo dog with vibrant colors that intensify the intimidation factor. The eyes look so intense! The black backdrop is a popular color to offset the dog and create an ominous look.
19) Interesting approach with the display of color but it really works. What do you think? It creates such an ominous overall look. This is very well done art. The blank eyes definitely creates a scary look. The scaly body makes it look like it was a stone that came to life to protect and do it’s job.
20) This sketch looks pretty legit. This artwork looks like he’s definitely in protective lion mode. Would you have added color?
21) The green hues and yellow, orange and red hair are common color choices for the foo dog and look super intense. The waves create an added affect of chaos. Check out those monstrous paws and fang like claws. We definitely wouldn’t want to get on this guy’s bad side.
22) Foo dogs aren’t meant to be warm and cuddly. It’s simply not why they were created. They are supposed to protect at all costs which is why they appear so intense in every photo. When you decide if this is the right image for you, just remember, it’s not supposed to evoke warm fuzzy feelings.
23) This is seriously awesome cover up work. Can you see the original tattoo in the picture to the left? Check out the wolf pup under the foo dogs tattoo. The eyes of this dog don’t look quite as scary, they almost look sad.
24) The top of the foot is a pretty sensitive space so kudos for having it done there. This foo dog looks pretty upset and we sure wouldn’t want to mess with him!
25) Pretty gnarly and intense artwork. It’s pretty rad how much detail this artist went into in creating this masterpiece. From the skulls to the foo dog, there’s not one inch of him that isn’t a little bit intimidating. Did you notice that the skulls are his crown? Check out those horns coming out from his head. This is one bad dude.
26) When there are a lot of lines and not a lot of shading or color, sometimes you can get a sunburn as you’ll notice on the guy below. Remember to wear sunscreen out in the elements or your work will fade and you’ll have to get it touched up.
27) Massive arms, huge head and expansive chest makes this creature quite foreboding! It looks pretty realistic and the shading here is unique. The artist did a great job making his face fierce and even his muscles look like they could snap a giant in half. If this guy was looking for protection, this tattoo definitely offers that illusion.
28) Have you noticed that most of the images have their paw on a ball? This protector is coming out of this guy’s skin. Is that they type of look you would want?
29) Commonly referred to as a lion because it looks so much like one, this foo looks menacing and fearsome.
30) It appears as if this guardian lion is clawing it’s way out of the shoulder. He’s looking a bit crazed. Wonder what it represents to the man?
31) The mixture of pastels doesn’t appear to be scary at first until you pay attention to the actual image. It’s an interesting use of colors but it definitely portrays this guy as an intimidating beast. That smile is probably not a happy smile either!
32) Beautiful work that covers the back. The attention to detail here is stellar. It appears to be a female tattoo as well. There seems to be a battle raging on her back. We wonder what’s it’s supposed to signify?
33) The faces look so life like. You’ll notice that the artist did not go so high up the neckline that you would be able to see the tattoo from under his shirt. Nice placement and shading too. It takes quite a genius artist to make this appear as realistic as it does.
34) The first foo dog that doesn’t appear quite as scary as all the others. Maybe he guarded the children. He almost has a playful like look about him. This is the second image we’ve seen that isn’t very scary. They don’t all have to be frightening and this is a great example.
35) The contrast in the purple and black is quite provoking and eye catching but it definitely doesn’t diminish the fact that this protector is intimidating.
36) The empty eyes are so scary. He appears to be deciding what his next move will be. That’s quite a frightening look!
As you can tell, foo dogs aren’t quite the most lovable of all the tattoo images available. They seem to be somewhat fearsome if not down right scary. That’s part of the culture and what makes them useful as guardians. If they were big panda bears, they probably wouldn’t be so effective at their jobs. But, you also saw a few that weren’t quite as scary as all the rest. You can tailor your imagery to however you want it to look like. That’s the beauty of art. You can follow the traditional looks or you can break the mold and create a masterpiece that is unique to you. Do you think you’d like to get a foo dog for your next piece of art? Find a great artist you trust and have fun!