Rain, thunder, and a long, low howl sounds outside, somewhere in the dark. What’s howling? According to legend, it could be a paranormal dog. There are many tales (tails!) of supernatural dogs, from the historical Beast of Gevaudan to the hounds of the Wild Hunt. Some are friend, some are foe, but all are more than a little scary: perfect for scary stories to tell around the campfire.
The Black Dog
Ghostly Black Dogs are perhaps the most widespread supernatural canines. There are at least twenty different black dog legends all over the British Isles, from the Barghest of Yorkshire to Black Shuck of Essex. In mainland Europe, Oude Rode Ogen haunts Flanders, and the bloodthirsty Dip roams the Catalonia. In the USA, a spectral dog haunts the Hanging Hills of Connecticut; and there are many black dog tales from Central and South America, such as Cadejo and Perro Negro.
In most of these stories, the dogs are associated with forces of evil. They are usually larger than normal dogs, with strange glowing eyes. Black dogs usually appear during storms to the crash of thunder and flash of lightning; often as omens of death. These stories may be part of the reason why black dogs are sometimes considered unlucky today, and can be difficult to find homes for.
Benevolent black dogs
Not all the black dogs in these stories are malevolent. Some are benevolent spirits, such as the Church Grim. The Church Grim is a church guardian, watching over the welfare of its particular church. They enjoy the sound of ringing church bells, and guard the dead from evil forces. The Gurt Dog of Somerset was said to protect travellers and guard children who played on the Quantock Hills. Even the terrifying Black Shuck of Essex is thought to be benevolent in some parts of the British Isles; on Mersea Island the dogs is thought to bring good fortune.
Beast of Gevaudan
There are many stories about this supernatural creature, but all are based on historical fact. Between 1764 and 1767, a large canine (probably a wolf hybrid) roamed Gevaudan (now Lozere and Haute-Loire, France), attacking and killing over a hundred men, women, and children. The attacks caught the attention of Louis XV, King of France, who sent an elite team of hunters to capture and kill the beast. Their efforts were to no avail, and the Beast’s attacks continued until the summer of 1767, when a local hunter shot it. Scholars today are uncertain exactly what animal the Beast was, and whether the attacks were devised by a human who controlled the Beast.
The Wild Hunt
There are several supernatural dogs associated with the legend of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is an old European legend featuring ghostly riders riding wildly through the night. Ghostly dogs run with the wild hunt. In Welsh folklore these are called the Hounds of Annwn. They have snowy white fur and reddish ears. These hounds chase evildoers, hunting them until they cannot run anymore. The Hounds of Annwn also guide souls to the otherworld.
The Dormarch is another dog of the Wild Hunt. They are strange looking creatures, with the front half of a dog but three fish-like tails that help them swim through the air.
Dando’s Dogs also run with the Wild Hunt. According to legend, these dogs belonged to a sinful priest named Dando. Dando went hunting on a Sunday, drinking as he rode. He finished his wine very quickly, and declared that he would even go to Hell for more wine. At that moment, a mysterious huntsman appeared and offered Dando a drink. The moment Dando finished the hunstman’s wine, he was dragged to Hell. Dando’s loyal dogs tried to chase after him, but their efforts were in vain. It is said that to this day, they wander lonely places on Sundays, searching for their master.