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The Hell Hounds Of Great Britain

Updated on July 2, 2013
Conan Doyles most well known novel.
Conan Doyles most well known novel.

Popular Legend

Virtually all the counties and countries of Great Britain are home to their own legend of a Black Dog, in the vast majority of cases the ghostly Black Dog is seen as malevolent and a harbinger of doom, the best known black dogs are Black Shuck who haunts the flat lands of East Anglia and the Barghest of the Yorkshire Moors, on Dartmoor in Devon legend tells of a huntsman who sold his soul to the Devil, following his death black hell hounds were seen at his graveside and now the huntsman is said to be seen to ride the moors with his ghostly canine familiars in attendance, this tale is said to have been an inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle when writing his classic novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Are these sightings akin to the sightings of alien Black Cats in Great Britain? Are they genuine or just misidentification of other animals or just urban legends spread by locals maybe hoping to increase the tourism in their local area? One thing is for certain in the majority of cases the ghostly dogs bring bad luck if sighted perhaps even death. Conan Doyle was a well known believer in the occult and the paranormal ( see his support for the pictures of the Cottingham Faries ) but the stories of phantom dogs had been around long before Conan Doyle wrote his famous tome, indeed legends of black dogs are one of the most enduring legends in British folklore.



Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Phantom Beasts

Ghostly Black Dogs are usually described as being larger than the average domestic dog and are often seen with eyes that glow a menacing red producing terrible fear in anyone unfortunate enough to see one. Black Dogs go by many names, Lean Dog in Hertfordshire, the Gurt Dog in Somerset, Padfoot in Bradford and Leeds, Hairy Jack, Skriker, Hateful Thing, Swooning Shadow are just some of the monikers given to the phantom beasts.

Well Known Black Dogs

Probably England's most well known Black Dog is the aforementioned Black Shuck, seen in and around Essex, Black Shuck is said be a bad omen and a bringer of death on the viewer or a member of their close family. The Yeth Hound of Devon is a headless phantom heard wailing through the woods at night ( this is another hell hound linked as inspiration for the Hound of the Baskervilles ).

In Scotland tales tell of the legendary Cu Sith a huge beast around the size of a cow who roams the highlands bringing death to any that see him and takes their soul.

The huge Mastiff Gwyllgi haunts the mountains and hills of Wales with its glowing red eyes and fetid breath.

On the channel island of Jersey locals fear the Tchian d'Bouôlé (Black Dog of Bouley) said to be the harbinger of terrible storms.


A pub sign associated with the Black Dog of Bouley Bay, looks a bit like the sign for The Slaughtered Lamb from the film American Werewolf In London!
A pub sign associated with the Black Dog of Bouley Bay, looks a bit like the sign for The Slaughtered Lamb from the film American Werewolf In London!

Origin Of The Legends

Legends of Black Dogs are ancient and stretch back into antiquity, due to their longevity it is impossible to tell if their source comes from Celtic, Norse or Saxon mythology, it is probable that elements of these legends begin in all three and other sources passed down from generation to generation, indeed these legends are not peculiar to Britain alone as there are Black Dog legends all throughout Western Europe and other parts of the world, the Beast Of Flanders in Belgium once again a large black dog with fiery red eyes being particularly well known. In Germany the Devil himself is associated as appearing as a large Black Dog and very similar stories are recalled in parts of South and Latin America. Not all ghostly Black Dogs are linked with doom the Gurt Dog of Somerset is a benevolent spirit who it was believed would help any youngsters who fell upon trouble in the Somerset countryside,

Even today sightings of ghostly black canine phantoms are reported in local and sometimes national newspapers in the UK, they are certainly an enduring legend and one that is not likely to be forgotten soon, so if you should find yourself alone one night in the British Countryside and spot a large black beast with eyes of fire, run!

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    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Whether true or the result of vivid imagination or superstition these stories are fascinating. It is quite interesting the way they survive through the centuries finding their way from folklore tales to popular cultures fiction, films etc. Very nice hub and voted up!

    • Kenny MG profile image

      Kenny MG 4 years ago from A Child of the Universe

      There are just somethings in life that gives you the creeps to read. Others like this one is pass interesting, but we must keep things real. For while they may make interesting reading, we have to draw the line between truth and fiction. Although in some respects truth is stranger than fiction, I will stick with the truth.

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 4 years ago

      I love reading about the supernatural creatures and monsters. Interesting +1

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi, fascinating read, and yes we do have the Hell Hound thing going on over here! lol! mind you, recently its been more of the Hellcat thing. Loads of sightings of big cats, some turn out to be just giant house cats that have ate too much! lol! and others may well be someones pet or exotic pet that has escaped, voted up! nell