The leopard falls into a category known as the Lesser Great Cats (which differ from the King Cats, i.e. lion and tiger), and is an animal much revered in several cultures.
The symbolic meaning of leopard differs from culture to culture. In some cultures, the leopard symbolizes power, fearlessness, and intelligence. In others, it is more revered.
In ancient Egypt, the goddess Osiris is depicted as a crouching leopard. King Nimrod of Babylon dressed himself in leopard skins and used a tame leopard as his hunting aid.
Despite the dominance of the lion is his domain, it is the leopard that has often been associated with kings. Of all the great cats throughout the world, it is the large spotted cats (the jaguar in the western hemisphere and the leopard in the eastern hemisphere) and their unique appearance that have been both feared and coveted.
In Africa, the leopard is a symbol of courage and of untamed instincts. Only members of African royalty are allowed to wear outfits with leopard skin adornment. In some other cultures, thought, the leopard is associated with evil and pride.
In Christian art and lore the leopard is less revered. It is one of the great creatures Daniel saw in a vision, and is often used as a symbol for nations with whom Christianity was at war.
Artists sometimes used the leopard as a symbol of sin, the devil, or the anti-Christ. It was occasionally shown as a traveling companion of the Three Wise Men/Kings who visited the baby Jesus, as a symbol of the outside world’s need for redemption.
As symbols of power, courage, and intelligence, leopard tattoos are very popular around the world, especially among young people. Here are some sample pictures of leopard tattoos.
In ancient Egypt, priests typically wore the skin of a leopard during funerary rites, particularly the “opening of the mouth” ceremony to ensure continued life to the deceased. The leopard skin, perhaps associated with Set, the trickster god and adversary of mankind and life, may have been worn to symbolize triumph over him at a crucial juncture in the afterlife.
Tattoos of leopards capitalize on all of their distinct features. Whether done in color, black, or grey, the leopard always shows their spots. They might be part of a jungle or savannah scene, perhaps hunting or assuming a regal reclining pose, or menacingly stalking their prey. Like other animal tattoos, these images tend to capture the natural behavior of the leopard. Also, like many other tattoos of predators, they emphasize the power, ferocity, and swiftness of the animal. These are primal themes and ones that seem to have an enduring appeal in tattooing.
In dream interpretation, the leopard is a symbol of enemies or, if running, illness. If you simply see a leopard in your dream, it is said that you will overcome your rival with ease. If you actually have to kill the leopard in your dream, a real life struggle will ensue.