Monster Monday: Black Dog

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Black Dogs.

Hound of the Baskervilles

Illustration of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sidney Paget

Black dogs are common apparitions in the folklore of the British Isles.  Almost always they are malevolent. They are often associated with the Devil or with the death of a particularly bad person. Though there are hundreds of different legends, some of the more well-known ones include:

The Barghest is a giant ghostly black dog seen in around Yorkshire that preys on lonesome travelers. The Barghest is said to appear at the death of a prominent person. In other legends, it foretells a person’s death by laying across the threshold of the person’s house.

Black Shuck is a spectral dog with large eyes and teeth that haunts East Anglia, particularly graveyards and crossroads. It is said that a person who sees the Black Shuck will die within a year.

The Yeth Hound inhabits Devonshire and is said to be a giant headless dog that roams the woods.

On the Isle of Man the Moddy Dhoo (“black dog” in Manx) haunts the area around Peel Castle. It is said that anyone who sees the dog will die soon after.

Though the origins of these legends are unclear, dogs have long been associated with death in European folklore. The legends also may be related to stories about mythological dogs such as the Cŵn Annwn from Welsh mythology, who were said to guard the underworld and were portents of death.

A famous examples of a black dog in literature is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was inspired by the legends. Another example comes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When the ship Demeter runs aground in a storm near the English coastal town of Whitby, Dracula leaps ashore in the form of a giant black dog.

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