Go Wild: The Ultimate Guide to Animal Prints post image

Go Wild: The Ultimate Guide to Animal Prints

Have you ever gushed over a piece of animal print – like that awesome faux fur coat in the windows of H&M right now – only to ask yourself, “Wait, is this cheetah or leopard?”

I’ve always wondered what print I was actually wearing, and didn’t truly know the answer until I greased my research elbows and got down to business to reveal the shockingly stark difference between cheetah and leopard prints.

Animal print is undeniably the trend of the season, so it’s only fair that you actually know what animal you’re wearing when someone pays you a compliment.

Read on for my explanation of cheetah, tiger, lion, cow, zebra, giraffe and dalmatian prints. It’s everything you’ve always wanted to know about animal prints, but never knew how or where to learn!

Cheetahs have solid black round/oval spots and black “tear lines” that start at their eyes and end toward their mouths. Prints don’t include these tear lines. Note solid spots against a burnt orange foundation.

Vintage 1960’s Cheetah Skirt, $158.


Leopards have a pattern of clusters of black and brown spots which look like roses, called rosettes. You can tell the difference between a leopard and cheetah because the leopard’s solid black spots are clustered around a darker brown, forming the “rosettes.” Cheetahs and leopards are so easily confused because while leopards have rosettes, they also have black solid spots, too. It’s the mix that throws designers — and therefore, their customers — off.

Vintage Silk Leopard Wrap Top, $98


Tiger prints are often represented in various colors — wild purple stripes against yellow for a nu-rave look, or red stripes against white for some sporty sass. It doesn’t matter how you alter the colors — the stripes make the tiger pattern more easily identifiable than the cheetah or leopard.

Vintage Tiger Sweater Dress, $42


Zebra prints are not crazy zig-zag patterns, which is what you may have an image of in your mind when you think of zebra print. See the image below, which is a correct design interpretation of a zebra print design. Stripes are close and tightly packed together, straight and smooth. If you see a more psychedelic print, you are actually looking at a White Tiger design.

Vintage Faux Zebra Fur Jacket, $69

White Tiger stripes are a bit crazier, a bit more fun, a bit more … fearless! The stripes are rugged. They zig zag. And they shouldn’t be as tightly packed as the design of a zebra’s black stripes.

Vintage White Tiger Dress, $15


I think the brown and white cow pattern is truly underrated! I would love to help popularize this pattern, not only because it’s under-the-radar but because it can be worn in a very on-trend Western inspired way.

So the deal with the brow and black cow? The pattern is noticeably different than the black and white cow — if you know what you are looking for.

While the black and white cow has extra large, irregularly shaped black spots scattered along with smaller black spots on a white foundation, the brown and white cow is colored mostly brown on white. You could even reverse the order and say the brown and white cow is white on brown. The pattern below shows the dominance of color in white, but the awesome vintage brown & white cow pattern bag shows how the brown coloring takes precedence in true B&W cow design.

To also note: The brown and white cow is not to be confused with the giraffe brown on tan colors. The B&W cow pattern consists of those quintessential irregular shapes, while the giraffe’s brown spots are rectangular in shape.

White and Tan Cow Print Purse, $42


You can catch a giraffe print by noting the use of similarly sized rectangular shapes clustered tight on a tan background. My research showed that some designers used more circular shapes to create the giraffe pattern.

Vintage Giraffe Shirt Dress, $68


It’s easy to confuse the black & white cow print with its similar B&W counterpart, the dalmatian pattern. The main difference: A cow pattern has irregular shaped black spots that are various sizes scattered on a white foundation. On the other hand, the dalmatian pattern are smooth ovals of similar size concentrated tight on a white foundation.

Vintage Cow Print Pants by Guess, $70

You can trust that you’re investing in real dalmatian design by noting the oval shape of black spots that are clustered tight and similar in size. Dalmatian spots are clustered tighter than you would see on a giraffe, cow, cheetah, leopard, etc. But don’t be like Cruella De Vil – invest in faux, vintage prints of dalmatian designs.

Vintage Dalmatian Dress, $145


Sammy Davis spends her days doing what any thrift nut loves most: blogging about her totally vintage life on her site, Sammy Davis Vintage, and shooting video that inspires you to pursue your passions on her YouTube channel.

Written by Sabrina Alexis

I’m Sabrina Alexis, the co-founder, and co-editor of A New Mode. I love writing relatable, insightful articles that help people understand relationship dynamics and how to get the love they want. I have a degree in psychology and have spent the last 10 years interviewing countless men and reading and studying as much as I can to better understand human psychology and how men operate. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Instagram.

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I have a real black leopard and she is black and has brown spots you can see in the sunlight . I would like to see a print that is true to her ! Does anyone make that?

Reply October 8, 2019, 10:06 am

Linda Cole

I am a huge fan of animal prints with my favorite being the infamous Leopard print with it’s golden, earthy appeal.

Even my two little dogs have leopard print rugs to lie on and when it comes time to wash them I always given a certain look which i interpret as “you better hurry back with our furry blankets!”
When I step out into the world wearing my leopard print shirt i get more looks than a super model and all because of that magical animal magnetism that seems to make people stop and take a second glance.

Animal prints worn well can be elegant and very upmarket. A winter coat designed in Zebra print can be an absolute show stopper as can leopard shoes or boots bring an element of style to a simple outfit.

Some people shy away from animal prints but I am here to let them know that just like adding a leopard print lamp or zebra comforter to your bed an animal print scarf or pair of gloves can make an outfit look like a million dollars in an instant.

Reply November 9, 2013, 3:14 pm

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