Leipzig is fantastzig !!

From the figures and information we received, the German canine organisation could well be meritoriously rewarded for their kind offer to take over the organisation of this year’s FCI General Assembly and World Dog Show.

The dishes on the menu offered in Leipzig are very promising and impressive: that will be the year of all records.

The “Canine Week” in Leipzig will start with the FCI General Assembly to be held on 6-7 November 2017.

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Y. De Clercq
FCI Executive Director
The dog as a ghostly figure - the myth of the black dog

Old Europe is full of both ghostly apparitions and myths born out of things that the people who lived in ancient times saw in real life, but which then passed into legend. Among them, there is one that appears throughout our own continent and was subsequently exported by emigrants to the New World, although there was already something similar in South America... I am talking about the myth of the black dog. The black dog is a nocturnal creature that is seen in all cultures as a harbinger of death.

As large as a mastiff and with big bright eyes, it became one of my own family’s ghosts due to the English tradition that was handed down to us by my great-grandmother; indeed this article emerged out of my memories of her.

The legend may well have its roots in the Middle Ages, a time when Europe was ravaged by the plague. Feral dogs followed in the wake of the Black Death, devouring human corpses that were left at city gates, as they were not easy to burn, while the survivors looked on in horror. All of this meant that dogs had a pretty hard time of it after the Fall of the Roman Empire, which had been a civilisation with a flourishing love of dogs. They represented the horrors of hell, the underworld... Their terrifying growls and yelps as they ripped the dead to shreds, rooted around among the corpses and rubbish and scrabbled away with their paws trying to bury or dig up remains - all of this lingered in the collective memory, thus perpetuating our fear of one of the most terrifying creatures ever dreamt up by mankind.

That was not all: back in those days there were large packs of feral dogs living near the gates of towns and cities and they were feared even more than wolves, because they were not afraid of people. The legend was forged out of all of this.

As for the ghosts of black dogs at crossroads... These were places where criminals were hung, drawn and quartered, and so dogs scavenging among the remains of executed criminals, amid flashes of lightning from huge electrical storms, were a common sight.

Until very recently there were regions of Transylvania where any totally black dogs would have a mark or sign placed on their heads using natural dye in order to break up the even blackness, because it was thought that if they were totally dark they heralded the arrival of the demonic Dracula.

It is hard to determine whether the origins of the black dog on our own continent are British, Celtic or Germanic, although it is a worldwide phenomenon, given that they were also to be found in the Mayan ancestral culture - even before the Europeans arrived.

British Isles

The place where the legend of the black dog is most widespread is the British Isles, where it can be found in the areas including the following:

  • There is a ghostly bloodhound known as Gytrash, Trash, Striker or Shriker in Lancashire.
  • The Drummer of Tedworth is an enormous black dog.
  • The Black Dog of Winchester.
  • The Padfoot of Wakefield. This myth is where the "grim” - a black dog that is a harbinger of death in J.K. Rowling’s third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban - comes from. Sirius Black, a character in the novel who can turn himself into a dog, is nicknamed "Padfoot".
  • The Black Dog of Corsham in Wiltshire is said by local residents still to appear before the death of a neighbour.
  • The Oldbury Ghost Dog.
  • The Yorkshire Barghest is another black dog.
  • In Wales there is the Gwyllgi, the "Dog of Darkness", a fearsomely sinister apparition with fiery breath and burning red eyes. This particular dog limits its appearances to the coastal areas of Wales. The latter are also related to the ghostly Cŵn Annwn, which is connected with the Otherworld kingdom of Annwn, relating to the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.
    Some texts from 1600 onwards describe it as being dazzling white rather than black, as is the case in the medieval texts.
  • A black dog appears in Penzance harbour; it is said to be the size of a large Labrador.
  • Shony is the name of a ghost dog whose appearance always foreshadows a heavy storm. It is usually seen by seamen.
  • The one exception to the rule - in other words the only good dog out of all the ghostly black dogs - is the Gurt Dog of Somerset, which protects children playing in the Quantock Hills and accompanies lonely travellers acting as a protector and guide.

Latin America

There are big black dogs with burning eyes and fiery mouths throughout South America, from Mexico to Argentina. They have a whole host of names, of which I shall list only the most common: the Perro Negro Nahual (Nahual black dog - Mexico), Way Pek (Yucatán, Mexico, sometimes spelt Uay Pek, Way/Waay Pek, which in Mayan mythology is called Uay Pek, literally, in the Mayan language, witch dog - huay, witch ypek, dog), the Cadejo (Central America, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica), the Perro Familiar dog (Argentina), and the Lobizón (Paraguay and Argentina). All of them are incarnations of the Devil, a demon or a transformed witch, and they date back to before the Spanish arrived here, although they are influenced by a Spanish legend about which I will be telling you later on, given that it started off as a yin and yang which reflected man in the form of his spirit animal and later turned into this black dog.

Cadejos, Cadejo or El Cadejo is a mythological animal and pre-Columbian legend, believed by people in both the countryside and in cities, and it is the most widespread myth under one common name in Latin America.

Cadejos or Cadejo, in a form of Spanish which has unfortunately gone out of favour, means tangled hair and, according to Enrique Zepeda, a Nicaraguan author who has written about this myth, the Cadejo is actually a mystery, a creature which frightens people without ever allowing them to catch a glimpse of it.

It is said to be a mythical dog (or two dogs, which usually appear to people who are out and about late at night) to which mysterious powers are attributed. The different versions of the legend in Central America describe one white and one black cadejo (they are usually good and evil, respectively), or simply a single black cadejo (usually evil). Basically, the legends say that God decided to create a ghostly spirit to frighten human beings in order to protect them and came up with the figure of a large dog, with red eyes and a white coat which would have the task of protecting people who had lost their way. The Devil was jealous of God so he created a figure at the same time to do evil and terrify anyone to whom it might appear.

United States

The most famous black dog-related legend from the USA is from near Macon County in Tennessee. There was once a ruthless farmer who adopted two black hounds. When he died, even the Devil would not allow him to enter Hell so, together with his two dogs, he began chasing travellers after midnight, with his appearance meaning certain death.

Others are:

The Black Dog of Hanging Hills in Meriden, Connecticut, is a small, sad black dog which leaves no tracks and makes no sound, seeing it for the first time brings good luck, twice means bad luck and three times means death.
The Black Dogs of Route 666 which burst the tyres of cars travelling in the area at night.
In Sweet Hollow Road on Long Island, NY, there is a black dog which appears and if you make eye contact with it you will die within a month of gazing into its eyes.

Spain and Portugal

In Spain and Portugal, the figure of the werewolf is known by two different names. In Spain - and specifically in Castilla - it is the Lobo Hechizado (bewitched wolf) or Lobizón (a word showing a clear Portuguese influence) and in Portugal the Lobisón. This shared name comes from the Portuguese Lobisomem, but it is outside the scope of this article and I mention it only in passing.
I have not heard of any black dogs in Portugal as ghostly figures.

The best known of the Spanish legends are as follows:

Basque Country

My paternal grandmother was from the Basque Country and she used to tell me a very ancient legend which I will also pass on to you. A legend about a black mastiff is told in Berriz (Biscay). A young man was about to get married, so he was finalising details with the priest for the wedding which was to take place the following day, and as they walked past the village’s cemetery, there were some remains which had been exhumed so that they could be reburied next to a family member. While the gravedigger was handling these remains, the skull came rolling out and instead of giving it back to him, the young man gave it a kick saying “you’re invited to the wedding tomorrow as well – if you can make it” and then he burst out laughing.
As he did so, he realised that there was an enormous black mastiff following a certain distance behind him with its eyes fixed upon him and growling. The young man, petrified with terror, hurried along to his parents' house. As soon as he had entered the house he told his mother everything and she said “go and see the priest and tell him everything under the Seal of the Confessional”. As he went out the dog followed him at a distance, growling hoarsely all the way to the Church.
The priest told him to approach the dog respectfully, ask its forgiveness and invite it to the wedding, showing it that he had meant no harm and that it had been no more than youthful high spirits.
No sooner said than done. He spoke to the dog which continued growling hoarsely, and followed him to the door of his house once again, waiting there until the morning of the wedding.
The young people got married with the priest’s blessing and watched closely by the dog from the church door, then the mastiff followed the newlyweds back to the farmhouse, where the groom gave it his share of the food and fasted that day as penance for his sin, serving the dog before the guests, much to everyone’s amazement.
When the wedding reception was over the dog looked at the young man, then got up and spoke to him, saying “you did the right thing by performing the penance as the priest told you to, for I am the guardian of my master’s grave and, if you had not put things right, my master would have sent me to kill you”. Having said this, the mastiff - which was as black as night – disappeared, heading straight back to the cemetery to guard his master’s bones as all dogs do according to the tradition of the Basque people, accompanying their owners even after death.


The Dip is a mythological being. It is a cruel, hairy dog which is lame in one leg and is an emissary of the Devil. It is also a bloodsucker. An image of this animal can be seen on the coat of arms of the Catalan municipality of Pratdip (Tarragona). It is portrayed as a large Great Dane with straight, pointed ears. The legend is still very much alive in this region and this is a genuine black dog.

The legend appears to date back to earlier than the 16th century. This evil being was portrayed in the altarpiece of Santa Marina in Pratdip, even as early as 1602

Dips sucked the blood of drunkards who spent their nights doing the rounds of the local taverns and also that of livestock – but always at night. The village owes its name to these animals (Pratdip = Dip field) and there is a monument to the Dip at the entrance to the village today.

Canary Islands

In Tenerife (Canary Islands), old people believe in an evil being or spirit with the shape of a shaggy dog known as the Guayota (the Devil), although it is not very well-documented, or the Tibicenas. Both of these are evil dog spirits.

The Tibicenas derive from the Guanche word ti-bizzăn-ah, meaning “evil or dangerous”, and they were demons or evil spirits which appeared to people in the shape of large dogs with dark, wiry coats.

Belief in these evil spirits which can take the shape of a dog among the aboriginal inhabitants of the islands of La Palma, La Gomera and Tenerife, named Yruene, Hirguan and Jucancha respectively, is gradually disappearing and is now restricted to just a few of the local elderly people.

That is all I have to tell you about our canine friends’ lesser-known dark side, I hope you have enjoyed reading about it.

Rafael Fernández de Zafra