Though not a common tattoo animal choice, the buffalo tattoo or bison tattoo is rich with symbolism, especially in Native American traditions.
The Sioux, in particular, viewed the buffalo as the chief of all animals. Anyone who has seen the 1990 Oscar-winning movie “Dances with Wolves” knows the reverence the people had for the “tatanka” which sustained them. It is a spiritual archetype.
Like the bear, the buffalo is a form of Wind Power, known to act as a whirlwind which can confuse the enemy and heal the afflicted. The buffalo symbolizes both masculine and feminine qualities. On the masculine side, it represents powers such as strength, courage, persistence, invulnerability, a power over females, and serves as a defender of its people. On the feminine side, it represents the powers of hospitality, generosity, and feminine virtue and courage.
It is also a sign of affluence. The white buffalo, in particular – though sometimes hard to capture in tattoo art – is considered the holiest of animals. It symbolizes that prayers have been heard, and that wealth is on its way.
Owusu writes about the buffalo in beautiful terms, claiming that it “teaches us that everything exists in abundance if it is respected and accepted with gratitude” (p. 245). A buffalo tattoo sends the message that we can not do it on our own; goals can be reached only with the power of the Great Spirit.