We have all seen black dogs and rarely do we wonder whether they are ghosts or portents of doom. However, because of the myths, folklore and unexplained stories, many people have a fear of black dogs. While the superstitions regarding black cats are far more common, both black cats and black dogs are least likely to be adopted at a shelter.
The origins of these stories remain unclear. However, there is a clear connection to myths of Rome and Greece, the British Isles and Germany. Many of these phantoms are seen as guardians to the Underworld or to the entrance to the land of the dead. In Roman history, who can forget the myth of Cerebus, the three headed dog now made popular in the Harry Potter series? While white dogs were associated with the Celtic underworld, the Celts shared their stories of nefarious black dogs. In Germany, with their fear and stories about wolves, a large black dog was a warning that the Devil was near. While the majority of stories equate evil with black dogs, there are reports of good, protective black dogs in Somerset and Connecticut. In mainland Europe, especially Belgium, the stories are familiar.
In the British Isles, seeing a black dog on the road at night can bring chills to many. These cultural beliefs see the dog as a ghost or a demonic spirit as larger than expected with eyes that glow in the dark. (Though dog’s eyes naturally reflect light and can give a glowing effect.) Sightings are usually reported with crossroads, sites of execution or death and ley lines. They may cause or be involved with electrical storms or death. A dog by the name of Black Shuck in Bungay, Suffolk has often been sighted. In fact, these dogs moved to fiction. In the The Hounds of the Baskervilles with Sherlock Holmes, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his story on the ghostly canines in Dartmoor. Black dog sightings have been reported in almost every county of England. In Scotland, these dogs were even thought to steal one’s soul.
In Latin America, these dogs are seen as demonic or a form that a shape-shifting sorcerer has chosen to use for his own purposes. Dogs in China are seen in general as positive influences, in fact the stories of foo-dogs, otherwise known as lion dogs, are supposedly just a myth, however, this author has interviewed an individual who claims to have seen one, quiet alive and in this world. In even more ancient times the dogs, as scavengers were seen as eating the soul of a corpse. There are also animal-headed gods such as Anubis from Egyptian mythology, the goddess Bau in Sumeria and in Rome, the Lycian Apollo. The dogs are also found in Hindu text. As Bob Trubshaw remind us, the dog was the first animal to be domesticated so it is not unusual there are so many tales about canines.
Even the color can be debated, as the Mythical Creatures Guide equates these dogs with hellhounds and claims they can be white, yellow, brown or a combination of colors. With this general description, it is no wonder that the stories of black dogs lay shrouded in mystery.
Yet the stories continue, travel from person to person and even among over the road truckers, who according to Wendy Parker, love the black dog and vanishing hitchhiker stories. We all love these stories, and while sightings continue, one has to wonder what is a real dog or a phantom dog plotting to take your soul.Recent sightings have been reported from New Hampshire, USA to Wales. Maybe it is best to be careful on the roads at night as either way a run-in with a dog can be bad luck. However at the shelter, the one with a waggly tail is probably a loving addition to your family.
*Lillee Allee, the author, owns four black dogs, with no ill effects, so far.
Black Dogs (ghosts). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_dog_(ghost) on September 1, 2015.
Black Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.mythicalcreaturesguide.com/page/Black+Dogs on September 1, 2015.
Martin Fund. “Contrary to Ordinary”: the black pearl of the dog world. Retrieved frm blackpearldogs.com on September 1, 2015
Parker, Wendy. How old is that story, bro? Trucking tales, legends and ghosts.(9/20/13) Retrieved from http://www.overdriveonline.com/how-old-is-that-story-bro/ on September 1, 2015.
Trubshaw, Bob. Black Dogs: Guardians of the Corpse Ways. Retrieved from http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/bdogs.htm on September 1, 2015.
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