Monday, May 14, 2012

Hellhounds: The Evil Side of Canine History

Pardon me, dear reader. I love dogs and animals in general but after writing countless posts singing their praises, raising awareness for more unfortunate animals and generally providing positive opinion, I thought it was high time that I tackled the eerier side of our canine friends.

The black Shuck, image via Wikipedia – public domain

Today, dogs are viewed as Man’s best friend. We keep them as pets, love them as members of the family and even take out costly insurance premiums to protect them. This has only been the case in very recent years.

Dogs were not always seen as the treasured well loved protectors popular culture has shaped them to be today. Oh no. Dogs were in fact often associated with evil and wrongdoing as well as being symbolic for sinners.

Straight from the fiery pits of hell
In the bible, dogs are mentioned on several occasions and not in the most appreciative of tones; eg: Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh (Phillipians 3:2).

Islam regards dogs as impure and unclean; they are unwelcome in the Muslim home unless they are guard dogs, protecting the house. In the Sunni tradition, black dogs are regarded as evil and demonic.

 These dark & demonic dogs are called hellhounds, a name under which a number of blood chilling mythological dogs fall under. Hellhounds are present throughout mythology, folklore and fiction, terrifying generation after generation of chill-seekers.

The most notable may well be the terrifying Cerberus, the three-headed hound who guards the gates of Hades, according to Greek and Roman mythology.

This multi headed creature is depicted as the guardian of the Underworld, allowing the spirits of the dead to enter but not to leave. He is also said to be the offspring of Echidna, half woman, half serpent and happily named the ‘Mother of All Monsters’. 

Image by cstreet360

Typically, a hellhound will always be black in colour, with glowing eyes, often red in colour. This of course enhances its terrifying nature, due to the fact that they can’t be clearly made out in the dark, but their fearsome eyes will shine out through the darkness, fixing intently on their prey and causing terror throughout the land. I’m actually scared writing this, why lie?

The Ghostly Black Dog
These fictional dogs will be found in lonely places, such as desolate moors, dark forests, abandoned manor houses and deathly swamps.

Seeing one of these creatures traditionally is considered to be a very bad omen indeed, often bringing ominous tidings. There are many stories that have emerged that involve the sighting of a monstrously large black dog before an accident or death has occurred.

The ghostly black dog of British folklore. (Wikipedia)

In British folklore, ghostly black dogs are very prominent, with many reported sightings across the British Isles throughout history.

Newgate Prison is notorious for its stories of a large black dog that would appear before executions for more than 400 years, reinforcing the ghostly dog’s association with imminent death.

One of Sherlock Holmes most famous tales was inspired by a true story surrounding a ghostly black dog that tormented those who lived in the Dartmoor area.

 The Hound of the Baskervilles  is said to be inspired by the story of a huntsman in the 17th century who sold his soul to the devil and after his death, would ride the land with fearsome black hounds.

In truth, most areas of England, Scotland, Wales and the British Isles have their own black dog stories. All have certain factors in common: the dog is large and black and can be seen at night. They mostly all have fiery red eyes, or certainly eyes that are prominently visible in the dark. They are often associated with the Devil and hell and imminent death.

All in all, not the most relaxing animals to have around. I attempt to console myself with the hopeful notion that these stories are of course merely based on unfounded fears of the dark and are mostly made up tales to deter children from venturing out past their bedtime.

I do believe though that whilst writing this post I have made a mental list of places I would not walk around in after dark. *Shudder*

Please share any ghostly tales that you may have below.

Susannah Plomer is an animal lover and blogger who momentarily defected from the positive dog stories and ventured over to the dark side of canine history. She blogs for Supapet , who provide the best accessories for the nice dogs who do not prowl the night causing terror and fear.

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