Black Dog - legendary harbinger of doom

Myth and Legend

Black Dog - legendary harbinger of doom

The black dog is a spectral or demonic entity found primarily in the folklore of the British Isles. It is particularly at home on lonely pathways across the moors and is usually still, silent and ominous.

It is usually a nocturnal apparition, in some cases a shape-shifter, and is often said to be associated with the Devil or described as a ghost or supernatural hellhound.

Its appearance was regarded as a portent of death. It is described as larger than a normal dog and often has large glowing eyes.

It is sometimes associated with electrical storms and also with crossroads, places of execution and ancient pathways.

Almost every county in the British Isles has legends of the Black Dog, and the creature has many local names, such as Padfoot (Leeds, Bradford), Yell Hound (Devon), Gwyllgi (Wales), Skriker (Lancashire, Yorkshire), Hairy Jack (Lincolnshire), and Black Shuck (East Anglia).

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles uses this myth as an inspiration and plot device.

Image copyright Fiona Horan.

Further reading

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