Animal LoreEnglish FolkloreFolklore

Demonic Dogs in English Folklore: A Complete(ly Incomplete) List

Despite the well-earned reputation that dogs have as “man’s best friend”, people have never really lost sight of the fact that they can be deadly. There’s a reason we have terms like ‘dog-eat-dog’, after all. English folklore in particular seems to be well aware of this, with an oddly large amount of what are called ‘Black Dogs’, that is, spectral, typically malevolent beings shaped like dogs. There are a lot of these and the following list is, by default, incomplete.

Bargest – Alternate spellings include Barguest, Bargeist, Bargest, Bah-ghaist. Has a wide range and is regarded as a portent of death, with flaming red eyes.  
Bull – the purported name of a witch’s familiar.  
Capelthwaite – A spirit that often appears as a large, black dog. This one seems limited to Yorkshire (Northern Counties, pg. 275)  
Gabriel Hound– They’re considered death portents but they don’t seem to interact otherwise. They’re described as flying dogs with human heads.  
Galley Trot– “This is the name of an apparition or cacodmmon, that has sorely frightened many people in the neighbourhood of Woodbridge. It sometimes assumes the shape of a dog ; and gives chase to those whose alarm compels them to run. Its appearance is sometimes as big as a bullock-generally white-and indefinable as to outline. Its haunts are more particularly at a place called Bath-slough, meaning a slough or bog in the parish of Burgh. But the place in question is not in, or very near, that parish, nor is there any slough. I can make nothing of the name; nor much of the story, though I have heard it related by more than one person who had suffered from the apparition.” (Suffolk, pg. 85)  
Hairy Jack – The only information I’ve found so far is “A canine apparition named ‘Hairy Jack’ was to be met with in the parish of Grayingham some years ago,and phantoms of the same breed are said to prowl about lonely plantations, by-ways, and waste places to attack anyone passing, although it must be confessed that proof of injury actually inflicted by them is hard to obtain.”(Lincolnshire, pg. 53)  
Kludde – A spirit that “presents himself as a black dog, running on its hind-legs, with a chain round its throat ; and will spring at the throat of the first person he meets, fling him to the ground, and vanish.(Northern Counties, pg. 273)  
Night-mare – Apparently a kind of demon that often takes the form of a dog or cat. It likely causes…nightmares…  
Oschaert– A spirit that occasionally appeared as a large dog and would sometimes leap onto travelers and “ cling on with outspread claws, till the poor victim came either to a cross-road or to an image of the Virgin, when his burden would fall off. On those who were troubled in conscience Oschaert used to press very heavily, striking his claws deep into their flesh, and scorching their necks with his breath. .”(Northern Counties, pg. 273)  
Padfoot – Named in a list of other dog-spectres  
Shag-foal – A deep-black spirit-dog that appears before travellers.  
Shuck – Sometimes also called ‘Old Shuck’, ‘Black Shuck’, or ‘Old Shock’. Its appearance is basically like barguest except that it has one glowing eye instead of two. It is regarded as a portent of death.  
Trash/Skriker – Has one of the most detailed descriptions I’ve found so far “”Trash” is described as having the appearance of a very large dog, with very broad feet, shaggy hair, drooping ears, and eyes ” as large as saucers.” When walking, his feet make a loud splashing noise, like old shoes in a miry road, and hence the name of “Trash.” The appellation ” Skriker’ has reference to the screams uttered by the sprite, which are frequently heard when the animal is invisible. When followed by any individual he begins to walk backwards with his eyes fixed full on his pursuer, and vanishes on the slightest momentary inattention. Occasionally he plunges into a pool of water, and at times he sinks at the feet of the person whom he appears with a loud splashing noise, as if a heavy stone were thrown into the miry road. Some are reported to have attempted to strike him with any weapon they had at hand, but there was no substance to receive the blows, although the Skriker kept his ground. He is said to frequent the neighbourhood of Burnley at present, and is mostly seen in Godly Lane, and about the parish church. But he by no means confines his visits to the churchyard, as similar sprites are said to do in other parts of England and Wales”(Lancashire 91-92)  
Willie Sled’s Dog – A white, spectral dog that inhabits a certain sandpit.  

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