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Legends and Lore: The Black Dog

Updated on February 28, 2018
husslindsey profile image

An artist and writer from Pittsburgh, Lindsey has been a scholar of the dark and creepy since childhood.


The Black Dog

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years. They have been by our side since our day’s as hunter gatherers. Because of this ancient friendship, it is no wonder that numerous stories and legends about dogs have manifested over the centuries. Once such example is that of the black dog.


The origin of the black dog is a little hazy. No one is entirely sure where or how the legend began, but it is widely accepted that the black dog first made its appearance in the British Isles in the early 1100’s.

Described as a large dog with jet-black fur and glowing eyes, this is not your typical furry companion. Features of the dog sometimes change from story to story. This entity sometimes haunts places of executions or they walk on their hand legs, an allusion to the devil.

While a large dog walking on it’s hind legs sounds horrifying, the black dog entity is not believed to be an evil one. Legends say that these ghosts haunt pathways in the woods and follow travelers until they reach their destination, seeming to be protecting them from whatever evils may be lurking nearby.


A Guardian and a Devil

There are numerous stories of black dogs and each one is unique to the last. One story tells of a man walking a path at night. He heard leaves crunching and twigs snapping around him. As he continued to walk, he noticed a large black dog walking slightly ahead of him. Following the dog, he was soon out of the woods and continued on his way home. Years later, two convicts told a priest of how they were planning to rob a man in the woods, but a large black dog with him scared them away. They had been seeing the dog ever since and they could no longer stand the guilt.

On the flip side, the Black Shuck of England is an evil entity. The story goes that in 1577, the dog attacked a church and killed two people. Sightings of the dog are accompanied with the scent of sulfur, as if the dog clawed its way up directly from hell. Scorch marks are also said to be seen with the Black Shuck.

Sightings of the black dog are not limited to the British Isles however. An urban legend amongst truck drivers in the United States tells of black dogs walking along the sides of dark roads, guiding truckers safely to their destination. In Latin America, ghostly black dogs are said to be shape shifters or the devil taking form.

In Pop Culture

Like just about all of the stories and legends out there, the black dog has been incorporated into popular culture. Probably the most well known example of the black dog being used in pop culture is in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry’s god-father, Sirius Black, takes on the form of a black dog. Dracula has the ability to transform into a black dog. In the movie, The Omen, large black dogs protect the antichrist. As black dogs have come to represent the devil and omens of death, they are continuously used as a common symbol in books and movies.

Sirius Black as "Padfoot", a black dog in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Sirius Black as "Padfoot", a black dog in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling | Source

As the Legend Continues

Be they malevolent or benevolent, black dog sightings are not to be taken lightly. As harbingers of death or silent guardians, the black dogs are an entity that is to be both feared and respected.


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    • profile image


      10 months ago

      i have a dream were hair on head turn to snake

    • husslindsey profile imageAUTHOR

      Lindsey Huss 

      10 months ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Aww I love dogs! While I was doing research for this article, I read that people tend to avoid black animals because they're seen as unlucky. Personally I think that's stupid, but as I kept reading stories it made more sense why people would believe that.

    • mstedda profile image


      10 months ago

      It is very-very interesting! We have 19 adopted dogs, 8 of them are black. I don't know why, but often people don't want to adopt black dogs.


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