Black dog (ghost)

Black dog (ghost)

A black dog is the name given to a being found primarily in the folklores of the British Isles. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal apparition, often said to be associated with the Devil, and its appearance was regarded as a portent of death. It is generally supposed to be larger than a normal dog, and often has large, glowing eyes.[1] It is often associated with electrical storms (such as Black Shuck's appearance at Bungay, Suffolk),[2] and also with crossroads, places of execution and ancient pathways.[1][3][4]

The origins of the black dog are difficult to discern. It is impossible to ascertain whether the creature originated in the Celtic or Germanic elements in British culture. Throughout European mythology, dogs have been associated with death. Examples of this are the Cŵn Annwn,[5] Garmr[6] and Cerberus,[7] all of whom were in some way guardians of the underworld. This association seems to be due to the scavenging habits of dogs.[8] It is possible that the black dog is a survival of these beliefs. Black dogs are almost universally regarded as malevolent, and a few (such as the Barghest) are said to be directly harmful. Some, however, like the Gurt Dog in Somerset and the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills in Connecticut, are said to behave benevolently.


Black dogs by locale

Some of the better-known black dogs are the Barghest of Yorkshire and Black Shuck of East Anglia. Various other forms are recorded in folklore in Britain and elsewhere. Other names are Hairy Jack,[9] Skriker, Padfoot,[9] Churchyard Beast,[citation needed] Shug Monkey, Cu Sith, Galleytrot, Capelthwaite, Mauthe Doog, Hateful Thing,[citation needed] Swooning Shadow,[citation needed] Bogey Beast (Lancashire), Gytrash, Gurt Dog, Oude Rode Ogen, Tibicena (Canary Islands), and Dip (Catalonia).

The ghostly black dog of British folklore.


Black Dogs have been reported from almost all the counties of England, the exceptions being Middlesex and Rutland.[10]

  • On Dartmoor, the notorious squire Cabell was said to have been a huntsman who sold his soul to the Devil. When he died in 1677, black hounds are said to have appeared around his burial chamber. The ghostly huntsman is said to ride with black dogs; this tale inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his well-known story The Hound of the Baskervilles.[11] The Devon Wishthounds ('Wisht' is a dialect word for "Ghostly/Haunted"[12]) are a related traditional folklore phenomenon apparently related to the Germanic dogs of the Wild Hunt.
  • In Lancashire the black hound is called Barguist, Gytrash, Padfoot, Shag, Trash, Striker or Skriker.[13][14][15]
  • In Tring, Hertfordshire, a fierce-looking black hound with red eyes is said to haunt the middle of the road in the area where the gibbet once stood. Locally it is known as Lean Dog, and is the spirit of a chimney sweep executed for murder. When approached, the lean dog sinks into the ground.
  • The Gurt Dog ("Great Dog") of Somerset is an example of a benevolent dog. It was said that mothers would allow their children to play unsupervised on the Quantock Hills because they believed that the Gurt Dog would protect them. It would also accompany lone travellers in the area, acting as a protector and guide.
  • Stories are told of a Black Dog in Twyford, near Winchester.[16]
  • There are many tales of ghostly black dogs in Lincolnshire collected by Ethel Rudkin for her 1938 publication Folklore. Such a creature, known locally as "Hairy Jack", is said to haunt the fields and village lanes around Hemswell, and there have been reported sightings throughout the county, from Brigg to Spalding. Rudkin, who claimed to have seen Hairy Jack herself, formed the impression that black dogs in Lincolnshire were mainly of a gentle nature, and looked upon as a spiritual protector.[17]
  • A black dog has been said to haunt the Newgate Prison for over 400 years, appearing before executions. According to legend, in 1596, a scholar was sent to the prison for witchcraft, but was killed and eaten by starving prisoners before he was given a trial. The dog was said to appear soon after, and although the terrified men killed their guards and escaped, the beast is said to have haunted them wherever they fled.[18]
  • Galley Hill in Luton, Bedfordshire, is said to have been haunted by a black dog ever since a storm set the gibbet alight sometime in the 18th century.[19]
  • In Norfolk, Suffolk and the northern parts of Essex a black dog, known as Black Shuck or Shug is regarded as malevolent, with stories ranging from terrifying victims to being a portent of illness or death to themselves or a person close to the victim. There are tales in the Norfolk that in 1577 it attacked the church in the village of Bungay, killing two people before running to the church in the nearby village of Blythburgh, leaving claw marks which remain today. There are also, less common tales of a similar dog said to accompany people on their way home in the role of protector rather than a portent of ill omen.[22] But in mid Essex Black Shuck is most commonly regarded as a bringer of death.

Devon's Yeth Hound

The yeth hound, also called the yell hound is a Black dog found in Devon folklore. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the yeth hound is a headless dog, said to be the spirit of an unbaptised child, which rambles through the woods at night making wailing noises. The yeth hound is also mentioned in The Denham Tracts. It is the inspiration for the ghost dog in The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. In this story it was described as "an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen" - with fire in his eyes and breath (Hausman 1997:47).[23]

Channel Islands and Isle of Man

  • In the Isle of Man it is styled Mawtha Doo (double 'D' pronounced 'th'), or Moddey Dhoo (black dog in Manx). It is said to haunt the environs of Peel Castle.[24] People believe that anyone who sees the dog will die soon after the encounter with the dog. It is mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel:
"For he was speechless, ghastly, wan
Like him of whom the Story ran
Who spoke the spectre hound in Man."
  • In the Channel Island of Guernsey, there are two named dogs. One, Tchico (Tchi-coh two Norman words for dog, whence cur), is headless, and is supposed to be the phantom of a past Bailiff of Guernsey, Gaultier de la Salle, who was hanged for falsely accusing one of his vassals. The other dog is known as Bodu or tchen Bodu (tchen being dog in Dgèrnésiais). His appearance, usually in the Clos du Valle, foretells death of the viewer or someone close to him. There are also numerous other unnamed apparitions, usually associated with placenames derived from bête (beast).
  • In Jersey folklore, the Black Dog of Death is also called the Tchico, but a related belief in the Tchian d'Bouôlé (Black Dog of Bouley) tells of a phantom dog whose appearance presages storms.[25] The story is believed to have been encouraged by smugglers who wanted to discourage nocturnal movements by people who might witness the movement of contraband.
The monstrous black dog reputed to haunt Bouley Bay in Jersey is depicted on this pub sign
  • On mainland Normandy, the dog is referred to as the Rongeur d'Os (bone-gnawer).


  • In Wales its counterpart was the gwyllgi, the "Dog of Darkness", a frightful apparition of a mastiff with baleful breath and blazing red eyes. Also related are the spectral Cŵn Annwn, connected with the otherworld realm of Annwn referred to in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi and elsewhere; however they are described as being dazzling white rather than black in the medieval text.[5][26][27]
  • Another ghostly black dog is said to haunt St Donat's Castle, with some witnesses claiming it to have been accompanied by a hag.


Mainland Europe

Oude Rode Ogen ("Old Red Eyes") or "The Beast of Flanders" was a spirit reported in Flanders, Belgium in the 18th century who would take the form of a large black dog with fiery red eyes. In Germany it was said that the devil would appear in the form of a large black dog.[30]

Latin America

  • Black dogs with fiery eyes are reported throughout Latin America from Mexico to Argentina under a variety of names including the Perro Negro (Spanish for Black Dog), Nahual (Mexico), Huay Chivo and Huay Pek (Mexico) - alternatively spelled Uay/Way/Waay Chivo/Pek, Cadejo (Central America), the dog Familiar (Argentina) and the Lobizon (Paraguay and Argentina). They are usually said to be either incarnations of the Devil or a shape-changing sorcerer.[31]

See also


  1. ^ a b Simpson & Roud 2000, 2003, p.25.
  2. ^ Westwood & Simpson 2005, pp.687-688.
  3. ^ Stone, Alby Infernal Watchdogs, Soul Hunters and Corpse Eaters in Trubshaw 2005, pp.36-37.
  4. ^ McEwan 1986, p.147.
  5. ^ a b Stone, Alby Infernal Watchdogs, Soul Hunters and Corpse Eaters in Trubshaw 2005, p.53.
  6. ^ Stone, Alby Infernal Watchdogs, Soul Hunters and Corpse Eaters in Trubshaw 2005, pp.44-45.
  7. ^ Stone, Alby Infernal Watchdogs, Soul Hunters and Corpse Eaters in Trubshaw 2005, p.38.
  8. ^ Stone, Alby Infernal Watchdogs, Soul Hunters and Corpse Eaters in Trubshaw 2005, pp.54-55.
  9. ^ a b c Bord & Bord 1980, 1981, p.78.
  10. ^ Trubshaw 2005, p.2.
  11. ^ Barber & Barber 1988, 1990, p.3.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Fields 1998, p.37.
  14. ^ Simpson & Roud 2000, 2003, p.366.
  15. ^ Crosby 2000, pp.14, 19, 26, 165.
  16. ^ Feldwick 2006, 2007, pp89-90
  17. ^ Codd, Daniel. Haunted Lincolnshire. Tempus Publishing Ltd (2006) pp. 75-78. ISBN 0 7524 3817 4
  18. ^ Clark 2007, pp.86-87.
  19. ^ Matthews 2004, p.35-36.
  20. ^ Janaway 2005, p.10.
  21. ^ Stewart 1990, pp49-50.
  22. ^ The Tollesbury Midwife
  23. ^ Brewer. Hausemen & Hausemen 1997.
  24. ^ Evans-Wentz 1966, 1990, p.129.
  25. ^ Bord & Bord 1980, 1981, p.95.
  26. ^ Gantz 1976, pp.46-47.
  27. ^ Pugh 1990, pp.19, 67
  28. ^ Deane & Shaw 2003, p.82.
  29. ^ Deane & Shaw 2003, p.44; also Semmens, Jason. ‘“Whyler Pystry”: A Breviate of the Life and Folklore-Collecting Practices of William Henry Paynter (1901–1976) of Callington, Cornwall.” Folklore 116, No. 1 (2005) pp. 75–94.
  30. ^ Varner, Gary R. Creatures in the mist: little people, wild men and spirit beings around the world : a study in comparative mythology in Algora Publishing 2007, pp.114-115.
  31. ^ Burchell 2007, pp.1, 24.


  • Barber, Sally and Barber, Chips (1988, 1990) Dark and Dastardly Dartmoor, Obelisk Publications, ISBN 0-946651-26-4.
  • Bord, Colin and Bord, Janet (1980, 1981) Alien Animals, Book Club Associates.
  • Brewer. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Brewer.
  • Burchell, Simon (2007) Phantom Black Dogs in Latin America, Heart of Albion Press, ISBN 978-1-905646-01-2
  • Clark, James (2007) Haunted London, Tempus Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7524-4459-8
  • Crosby, Alan (2000) The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Smith Settle, ISBN 1-85825-122-2
  • Crossley-Holland, Kevin (1980) The Norse Myths, Andre Deutsch, ISBN 0-233-97271-4
  • de Garis, Marie (1986) Folklore of Guernsey , The Guernsey Press, ASIN B0000EE6P8
  • Deane, Tony and Shaw, Tony (2003) Folklore of Cornwall, Tempus Publishing, ISBN 0-7524-2929-9,
  • Evans-Wentz (1966, 1990) The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-1160-5
  • Feldwick, Matthew (2006, 2007) Haunted Winchester, Tempus Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7524-3846-7
  • Fields, Kenneth (1998) Lancashire Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, ISBN 1-85058-606-3
  • Gantz, Jeffrey (trans) (1976) The Mabinogion, Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-14-044322-3
  • Hausmen, Gerald and Loretta. The Mythology of Dogs: Canine Legend. St. Martin's Press 1997 ISBN 0-312-18139-6, p. 47.
  • Janaway, John (2005) Haunted Places of Surrey, Countryside Books, ISBN 1-85306-932-9
  • Matthews, Rupert (2004) Haunted Places of Bedfordshire & Buckinghamshire, Countryside Books, ISBN 1-85306-886-1.
  • McEwan, Graham J. (1986) Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland, Robert Hale Ltd.
  • Michell, John F. and Rickard, Robert J.M. (1977) Phenomena: a book of wonders, Thames Hudson Ltd, ISBN 0-500-01182-6 (hardback), ISBN 0-500-27094-5 (paperback)
  • Paynter, William. & Semmens, Jason. (2008) The Cornish Witch-finder: William Henry Paynter and the Witchery, Ghosts, Charms and Folklore of Cornwall Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, ISBN 978-0902660397
  • Pugh, Jane (1990) Welsh Ghostly Encounters, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, ISBN 0-86381-152-3
  • Readers Digest (1977) Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, Readers Digest Association, p. 45
  • Joseph, Ritson (1831) Fairy Tales, Now First Collected: To which are prefixed two dissertations: 1. On Pygmies. 2. On Fairies, Elibron Classics [facsimile], 2007, ISBN 1-4021-4753-8. See pp. 137–139 (The Mauthe Dogg).
  • Simpson, Jacqueline and Roud, Steve (2000, 2003) Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-860766-0
  • Stewart, Frances D. (1990) Surrey Ghosts Old and New, AMCD, ISBN 0-9515066-8-4.
  • Trubshaw, Robert Nigel (ed) (2005) Explore Phantom Black Dogs, Heart of Albion Press, ISBN 1-872883-78-8
  • Waldron, David and Reeve, Chris. (2010) "Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay: A Case Study in Local Folklore" Hidden Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9555237-7-9
  • Westwood, Jennifer and Simpson, Jacqueline (2005) The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England's Legends, from Spring-heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-100711-7

Further reading

External links

Spectral Black dogs Barguest (Yorkshire) • Black Shuck (East Anglia)  • Church Grim (England) • Dip (Catalonia) • Gytrash (Northern England) • Gwyllgi (Wales

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