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In the US, western culture often revolves around the cowboy, a man who works on a ranch, out in the wild and does most of his daily tasks on horseback. However, in more modern times and once picked up by mainstream fashion, cowboys have come to represent strength, grit, and the yearning for freedom. 

If you’re proud of your American roots, a western tattoo could be your next tattoo design. Giddy up and get ready for the wild west of cowboy tattoo ideas, only outlaws welcome. 

1. Cowboy Bebop Tattoo

Looking for unique tattoos ideas for men? Then why not get a tattoo that combines Western and Eastern cultures. Cowboy Bebop is an anime series from the ’90s (and live-action reboot in 2021) that draws its storyline from western film noir and science fiction. If you want a tattoo with plenty of color, Cowboy Bebop tattoos are an excellent choice.

Cowboy Bebop Tattoo
@pgprincess.art / Instagram

2. Cowboy Hat Tattoo

If you want a simple tattoo that shows your love for a Western living then choose from a variety of cowboy hat tattoos. This design can be an outlaw symbol or a yearning for freedom. After all, a cowboy isn’t complete without his Stetson. 

Cowboy Hat Tattoo
@rodneyraines / Instagram

3. Cowboy Tattoo

Men get cowboy tattoos to commemorate the death of an important male figure in their life such as a father, grandfather or brother. Others may get cowboy tattoos of their favorite Western movie character, like Clint Eastwood from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. These pieces are often more elaborate with high attention to scene and detail, the optimal place would be on the shoulder or back. 

Cowboy Tattoo
@bobbietheboss / Instagram

4. Cowboy Skull Tattoo

Part of the cowboy lifestyle is living on the edge. So cowboy skull tattoos may symbolize how close a cowboy can be to death when living life dangerously. On the other hand, it can also represent how men choose to live or just be a fun piece, this design can easily be personalized from comedy to more macabre.

Cowboy Skull Tattoo
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5. See You Space Cowboy Tattoo

See You Space Cowboy is a song from the popular anime and live-action series Cowboy Bebop. You can simply get the words tattooed on your skin or place next to an image of your favorite character from the show. 

Space Cowboy Tattoo, Cowboy Bebop
@paolodiy / Instagram

6. Skeleton Cowboy Tattoo

Instead of simply getting a cowboy skull tattoo you can choose from a wide variety of full skeleton cowboy tattoo designs, often symbolizing bravado, someone unafraid of forging their own path. Most of these designs are in black and white but adding color would be easy for most western tattoos.

Skeleton Cowboy Western Tattoo
@flooritcourt / Instagram

7. Traditional Cowboy Tattoo

Traditional cowboy tattoos pay homage to the origins of cowboy culture. This tattoo design is typically highly saturated with a 2D artwork style created using less shading. You can get a traditional cowboy tattoo on your shoulder, arm, chest, or leg, the size can vary so you can choose where it fits best. 

Traditional Cowboy Tattoo
@sene_time4line / Instagram

8. Cowboy Boot Tattoo

Any cowboy would be incomplete without his traditional leather boots and spurs. This tattoo could be a symbol of preparedness, or being ready for any challenge that crosses an outlaw’s path. Traditionally, cowboy boot tattoos have no color. 

Cowboy Boot Tattoo
@pillartattoo / Instagram

9. American Traditional Cowboy Tattoo

Traditionally a cowboy is a herder that tends to his flock on horseback, when styled in ‘American traditional’ the tattoo will feature a cowboy at work. These tattoo ideas are meant to look like old-fashioned drawings with splashes of color, timeless pieces.

American Traditional Cowboy Tattoo
@justinrakowskitattoo / Instagram

10. Space Cowboy Tattoo

Space Western is a great mashup of cowboys and the great adventure and science fiction possibilities of outer space. Space cowboy tattoos could have different meanings to everyone, It could symbolize a cowboy’s freedom to go anywhere, it’s also a fun tattoo that could just be a great scene on an upper arm or thigh.

Space Cowboy Tattoo
@amazingchriswhorton / Instagram

11. Cowboy Up Tattoo

Cowboys are the American epitome of manly grit and perseverance. A spiff off of the popular saying ‘Man Up’ it’s a versatile phrase that can be placed on any part of the body, as it can be sized up or down to fit what you like.

Cowboy Up Tattoo
@jcalenzotattoo / Instagram

12. Realistic Cowboy Hat and Skull Tattoo

Once you become a skeleton what do you have to be afraid of? Not a trick question, the answer is nothing. Show off your endless tough and brave side for the world to see. Find the perfect tough-guy spot on the calf or upper arm. 

Skull with Cowboy Hat Tattoo
@dcyrilletattoo / Instagram

13. Cowboy Bebop Swordfish Tattoo

The Swordfish in the TV series ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is a red spacecraft that the characters travel in. Cowboy Bebop Swordfish tattoos are popular designs for those who love this anime series, a different way to show a passion for science fiction and western culture. Get the full effect and place the tattoo on the forearm or leg to give it a flying illusion. 

Cowboy Bebop Swordfish Tattoo
@lacomediatattoo / Instagram

14. Outlaw Cowboy Skull Tattoo

An outlaw is an outsider or a character that desires to be outside of the law. An outlaw cowboy skull tattoo may represent the wearer’s dark side or someone who shuns the norm and does things his own way. 

Outlaw Cowboy Skull Tattoo
@mike_chavez77 / Instagram

15. Cowboy Cross Tattoo

Cowboy cross tattoos can be a representation of the wearer’s Christian faith or a memorial tattoo for a loved one that has passed away. The ideal place to get this tattoo is on the chest or back. 

Cowboy Cross Tattoo
@mateobradley66 / Instagram

16. Small Cowboy Tattoo

Small cowboy tattoos are for men who want something a little more inconspicuous. This is a tattoo that you can hide easily with clothing, which is helpful if you work in a corporate environment with strict dress codes. Small cowboy tattoos can be placed on the shoulder or chest or upper thigh. 

Small Cowboy Tattoo
@kiserink / Instagram

17. Cowboy Hat and Boots Tattoo

A Cowboy hat and boots tattoo are typically designed as memorial tattoos or symbolizing a retirement from something you are leaving behind. Some designs can have color but they’re generally smaller tattoos with minimal shading and detail. 

Cowboy Hat and Boots Tattoo
@luvinink / Instagram

18. Bleeding Cowboy Tattoo

Bleeding cowboy tattoos is actually an elaborate type of font that people use to tattoo quotes or lyrics on their skin, especially popular for country songs. Upgrade the western cowboy tattoo by adding the bleeding cowboy font under an image of a Stetson or pair of elaborate boots. 

Bleeding Cowboy Tattoo
@christopherboyse / Instagram

19. Cowboy and Native American Tattoo

Cowboys and Native Americans have long been depicted as rivals. But in some instances the two cultures worked together, they are representative of the many sides of American culture. These tattoos can be placed on the chest, back or used as inspiration for a full sleeve. 

Native American Cowboy Tattoo
@mad_ink_art / Instagram

20. Dead Cowboy Tattoo

Dead cowboy tattoos can represent how short life can be. It reminds the wearer that he should live each day to the fullest. These tattoos show a decomposed cowboy either smoking a cigarette or slinging a gun. 

Dead Cowboy Tattoo
@classact_danapoint / Instagram

21. Cowboy on Horse Tattoo

Cowboys travel on horses around their ranches or between towns (especially in old western stories). Almost all cowboys possess horse riding skills, if you are looking for a tattoo that really represents what a cowboy culture is all about, look no further.

Cowboy on Horse Tattoo
@phuckos / Instagram

22. Cowboy Silhouette Tattoo

Cowboy silhouette tattoos are perfect for men who don’t want a lot of detail. It could also be the best way to show a cowboy walking away and into the horizon. The silhouette will be completely black with some details around it such as a sunset or trees. 

Cowboy Silhouette Tattoo
@rdgz.tattoo / Instagram

23. Lost Cowboy Tattoo

Lost cowboy tattoos can symbolize someone who feels like an outcast in his own community. Or he may view himself as a lone ranger. This tattoo design can show a cowboy taking a slow ride on his horse through the desert, or resting away from others. 

Lost Cowboy Tattoo
@janman_tattoos / Instagram

24. Gunslinger Tattoo

Gunslingers, like Billy the Kid, are cowboys and outlaws who are good highly skilled with guns, often men who are the quickest to draw their weapon. Gunslinger tattoos may represent someone who is adventurous or brave, a great choice to build a half sleeve or full sleeve.  

Gunslinger Tattoo
@goper_ink / Instagram

25. Cowboy Sleeve Tattoo

Cowboy sleeve tattoos give you the opportunity to have a large and highly detailed piece tattooed from shoulder to wrist. You can tattoo your favorite classic Western film character on your arm or a cowboy you admire. 

Western Tattoo
@ian_roberts_tattooer / Instagram

Final Thoughts 

Cowboys are incredibly tough men who often work on ranches or in rodeos. They know how to ride horses, herd cattle, and lasso animals. Cowboys are associated with a love to live life on the edge, they’re brave and are ready to tackle any challenges head-on. Any of the western-inspired tattoos above would make a great homage to your love of America or cowboy culture. 

Cowboy Tattoo FAQ:

What does a cowboy tattoo mean?

Cowboy tattoos can have a different meaning to each man who chooses one. It can be a way to honor a lost loved one or it can represent the desire to be free. To some men, cowboy tattoos can even be a symbol for outlaws and represent bravery and grit. 

What is the meaning of a cowboy skull tattoo?

A cowboy skull tattoo is a representation of how close a cowboy is to death when they’re working far out in the wild or living in the fringes as an outlaw. It can also symbolize that death doesn’t scare the wearer of the tattoo and that they’re willing to face dangerous situations head-on. 

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