What Does the Panther Symbolize?

The panther symbolizes different things across cultures. In Christianity, the panther represents Christ, while some Native American cultures saw it as a malevolent creature with strong links to warfare. In Greek mythology, Dionysus the god of wine was nursed and served by panthers.

In Christianity, the panther's reportedly sweet breath that draws animals towards it symbolizes Christ's words that drew people back to him after his resurrection. The panther's multicolored coat represents the different qualities of Christ.

The panther is almost always drawn with flames roaring out of its mouth and ears, representing the sweet odor of its breath. This pose is known as "panther incensed." King Henry VI adopted the panther as a symbol of his house, declaring that a king must hold as many qualities as the panther's coat has colors. However, the panther is not always readily recognizable in images; few artists at the time had ever seen a panther, and so the panther appears as a donkey and other animals, recognizable primarily by its flames.

Some Native American tribes depict the panther with horns to symbolize its connection to the spiritual world and its immense power. The panther sometimes appears combined with other animals to represent its strength and the role it plays in mythology.