Dogs in Myth and Legend

Dogs are mentioned as far back as human history has recorded stories. Not surprisingly, dogs also feature heavily in myth and legend.

Here are just a few of the most famous legendary canines in ancient stories and myths…

  • The Faerie Dogs of English Mythology. According to legend, at a certain crossroads in Britain, there is a portal to another realm where faeries, elves, ancient gods and demons reside, invisible to our normal vision. A green faerie dog named Cu Sith will occasionally appear at these crossroads and bark twice in warning. If the listener hears a third bark, they are doomed…

 

  • The Welsh Gwyllgi is the dark counterpart of the Faerie Dogs. This black dog of darkness is said to haunt lonely Welsh country roads and to see him portends a dark omen.

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  • In Greek mythology, a three-headed dog named Cerberus guarded the gate to the Underworld. If a human looked upon this dog, he would be turned to stone. One of the Labours of Hercules was to capture Cerberus.

 

  • Basenjis are a breed of dog that is unable to bark. Instead, they produce a sound like a yodel, as a result of having an unusually shaped larynx. According to African myth, the Basenji named Rukuba stole fire and this angered the Fire god, who then took away the dog’s ability to vocalise properly.

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  • Anubis was an ancient Egyptian god that was a hybrid of a wild dog and a jackal. He was worshipped and associated with death and rites for burials.

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  • According to Native American myth, Huskies howl when they are feeling forgetful.

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  • Black Shuck is a dog of doom said to roam the coastlines of Suffolk, Norfolk, and Essex. He is, according to legend, said to presage death and great misfortune.

 

  • The cheeky Norse god Loki produced a wolf with giantess Angrboda. This wolf was named Fenrir, and became the most infamous of all wolves in Norse mythology. He wreaked havoc through the Nine Worlds, and could not be contained.

 

  • A Welsh folktale from the eighteenth century tells the story of the Faithful Hound Gelert, a deerhound whose master, the Prince Llewellyn, left the dog in charge of his baby son while he himself went hunting. On his return, the room was in chaos, and the baby was gone. Gelert had blood on his muzzle. Just after the Prince slayed the dog for killing his only son, he heard the baby’s cries. Investigating, he found the infant alive and well underneath his overturned cradle, as well as the body of a dead wolf. Gelert had saved his baby’s life. The Prince was distraught over his mistake, and buried the dog, erecting a small shrine at his gravesite. To this day, tourists visit Gelert’s grave in Beddgelert.

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