Are these beasts lions or dogs? Feline or canine? Their name may spark confusion when looking closely at them, but their history can clarify their meaning. Foo dogs are actually a protective lion, their origins rich within Asian history and symbolism. They can be found as statues, symbolic of guardianship and protection, sitting in front of imperial palaces, tombs, government offices, temples, and homes of the wealthy in Asia. When tattooed on the body, they’re often symbolic of protection, security, prosperity, stability, and luck.
Their name “foo dog” comes from China, where “foo” is actually “fu” in Chinese and means either “Buddha” or “prosperity”. However, in Chinese, these creatures are never referred to as dogs. That was a western adaptation!
1. Heart’s Guardian
Located perfectly just over the heart, staring viciously at anyone who dare cross its path, this foo dog is ready to protect its master’s happiness associated with love. The colors are striking with purple and yellows contrasting, a black mist delicately collecting behind it. If you’re searching for a tattoo representative of protecting one’s heart and relationships, placing a foo dog on your left chest is both mesmerizing and jaw-dropping.
2. Geisha’s Protector
Your foo dog doesn’t have to be over sized and alone. You can pair it with a geisha – a beautiful and mysterious woman with many talents. Pairing a geisha and foo dog together can symbolize beauty, prosperity, and protection over one’s secret life. They make a gorgeous combo, with masculine features apparent in the foo dog and feminine in the geisha.
3. Buddhist Mural
Instead of a geisha, why not pair it with that which they’re named after – Buddha? Here we can see a foo dog in front of a sunset or sunrise, depending on how you interpret it. Behind the sun rests a tranquil Buddha in contrasting colors to the sun, blue and green. If you’re all about wowing your onlookers, you can create your own mural with a foo dog for your back similar to this one!
4. Refined Outline
This design may look simple, but the image creates a striking appeal all on its own. If you aren’t a fan of colored tattoos, try a foo dog with thick lines and detailed hair/fur. You can add on a geometric stand upon which it sits, giving it more of a statuesque feel. Here we can also see a mini foo dog on its necklace, an added detail that can be of personal meaning to you.
5. Protection Worth a Thousand Words
Foo dogs are often tatted on those of us bearing other animals as well, such as the eagles shown here. They too represent guardianship, but also freedom and good fortune. To lessen the confusion as to what your tattoos represent from your audience’s standpoint, a simple phrase may help them understand your tattoo’s story.
6. Belly crawl
This savage looking foo dog is crawling down its owner’s belly as if ready to pounce on its next victim. The design has less detail associated with its fur and teeth but still has the look of a fierce creature ready to protect its owner. A tattoo located on the stomach and chest is great if you want to still be able to get that promotion at work without having to cover up your tat!
7. Sliding into a Sleeve
A delicate foo dog, with wavy fur and elegant stance surrounded by both flames and flowers. A gorgeous piece of art like this can easily flow into another piece of body art, its colors interchangeable depending on your style and aim. Here, the foo dog begins a tatted story that leads over and down its master’s arm into another beautiful tattoo that is still in need of color.
8. Piercing Eyes
Large and full of detail, this foo dog’s design still brings your eyes directly to its own. It appears to be looking forward, in the direction its wearer would be walking, watching for evil and scaring it away. The curled mane emphasizes its round eyes and gives you a true sense of protection for its wearer.
9. Protect Me from Evil
This yellow foo dog isn’t afraid to bear its teeth, paired with a large yellow flower and a red background that has the effect of flames mixed with blood. Designing your foo dog to wrap around the arm might be a hard task, but the results are well worth it – especially if you’ve a grand idea for a background such as the one you see here.
10. Foo Dog & Dragon Pair
Stepping back and getting a better look at the tattoo, we can see that the foo dog isn’t alone! Above it there lies an Asian dragon, its claws sinking into its wearer’s arm. Many tattoo junkies that choose to have sleeves often pair foo dogs and dragons together, both being dominant figures in Asian mythology and culture.
11. Words of Preservation
A colorful foo dog surrounded in black details is sure to stand out. To add a better sense of the creature’s origins, you can place calligraphy above it to represent any words or phrases that have meaning to you. Be sure you know the meaning of the symbols, so that if someone that speaks the language reads it, it doesn’t say something silly!
12. Elbow Head
Why put a spider web on your elbow when you can put the head of a foo dog on it instead? Here we can see that the face is facing forward if the wearer were to put their arm by their side. White ink helps to bring out the details of the eyes, teeth, and mane.
13. Lion & Dragon Hybrid
The face of this foo dog looks strikingly similar to that of a dragon. You can design your own creature to similar to this, combining the protection of a foo dog with the determination and ferociousness of a dragon. What you get is double the power and guardianship. Here, the colors lean more towards water, with a large lily placed beneath the creature to add beauty and style.
14. Detailed Mane
Instead of focusing on the eyes of the creature so much, you can choose to have its mane detailed like in the picture you see here. Swirling tufts of fur cover the creature, and give your design a more symmetrical look. Fire can be seen surrounding the foo dog, so a tough appeal still lingers.
15. Changing Face
The face seen here is pulled further apart, with a wider nose, eyes, and mouth to give it a more personalized look. Cracks can be seen all about its body, making this foo dog seemingly more statuesque rather than alive and fiery.
16. Water Lion
Again, here we have a different sort of foo dog, mixed with what seems to be a sea creature as fins fray around the edges of its face. The gorgeous blue emphasize its watery appeal, with the lily pad still in need of color beneath it. This is a great alternative to the normal design we often see of foo dogs that have fire surrounding them.
17. Leave No Skin Unmarked
For the bold and adventurous! Cover your back with a gorgeous mural that speaks for itself and is worth more than a thousand words. This foo dog has its paw on a blossoming world, its face looking more like a canine than feline as it looks up towards a bird perched near its shoulder that has weapons in its claws. As much time as we can spend trying to analyze this large tat, only the bearer can truly know what each piece represents!
18. Prosperity & Happiness
Cover up your calm with the entirety of a foo dog wrapped in cloth and flowers. Again, the details of this creature are in its mane instead of eyes and teeth – the part that look wonderful in tight swirls and thick lines. The foo dog also has a foo dog on its collar, doubling the protection you’re seeking.
19. Flaming Lion’s Growl
20. Windy & Scaled
The texture of this foo dog looks less like its soft-fleshed brothers and more like dragon scales. You can choose to mix and match any type of animal texture to your foo dog to give it a twist of appeal that fits your personality. The flower it stands next to is also different than the lilies that usually surround it.
22. Green Dream
Here’s a great example of making your foo dog truly your own, by giving it the splash of color one rarely sees on a lion! A green foo dog seemingly pops out of your skin, and the long nails this one has makes it more terrifying.
23. Water & Fire Marvel
Combining opposites like fire and water can give your foo dog a glorious look, especially when its mane isn’t fire but rather water. They’re interchangeable – whether you want a mane that looks like swirls of water or swirls of fire.
24. Deep Colored Cover-Up
Here is a perfect example of a foo dog and its deeply colored mane covering up an unsightly tattoo that you just don’t want to see on your skin anymore! Yellow and purple go great with one another, proving a lovely contrast and assuring you can no longer see the tat resting beneath it.
25. Protecting the Path of Life
Place a foo dog on your foot to protect each and every step you take throughout your life. It will guard your decisions and the places your feet take you. Since a foot isn’t too much skin to work with, you may consider placing just the head on it, bearing a ferocious snarl.
26. Full-Body Guardianship
If you’re serious about having a protective or guardian tattoo on your body, and want to truly show it off – even without any color – take a close look at the pic above. Not only does covering your back with the face of a foo dog look mesmerizingly fierce, this one has a third eye to help it see at a more divine level.
With a puffed up chest and perfect figure, this foo dog looks distinguished and proud, guarding that which brings him fortune. This one looks more like a carved statue than a design attempting at a more realistic appearance.
29. Saddened Face
Not all foo dogs are happy about their whereabouts. Be sure your artist knows what kind of facial features you want on your foo dog before letting him place that needle against your skin!
30. Countering Evil with Evil
Do you prefer a “good” guardian or “evil” guardian? You can give a foo dog a distinctively evil look just by changing the colors you use to fill it in. Here we have all red, giving the creature more of a demonic or hellish look rather than a fierce guardian.
31. A God-Like Appearance
The background of your foo dog can make all the difference. Place it in water, you’ve a water lion. Place it in the stars, you’ve a stellar lion. Here is a combination of clouds and water, as if the creature is rising out of both like some god in a myth.
Another creative way to have a lion and a dragon tatted on you together as companions throughout your life. Ensure they flow nicely together, make sure your background colors compliment both creatures.
34. Dotted & Dramatic
Color is plentiful on this foo dog, with a black background texture that has it popping out with personality. Reds and blue do well together if you’re wanting a brighter design such as this one.
It’s all in the details. Shading can give your foo dog a whole new look filled with unimaginable detail, and adding a deep accent color will add personality to your design.