The Black Shuck

The Black Shuck, and creatures like it, have been seen all across England throughout the middle ages. Places like Suffolk, Norfolk, East Anglia, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Leicestershire have all had accounts of such a beast: a dark or pure black mangy dog, generally very large, although accounts strongly vary in size. For instance, in County Durham we have the Barghest, which in some accounts perfectly matches this description. Accounts vary between the Black Shuck having a pair of searing red eyes, or a single large eye like a cyclops.

In 1901 W. A. Dutt, an author and journalist of the wildlife and topography of East Anglia, gave us this description of a cyclops wolf. He also explains that the origin of the Black Shuck may be from old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to Old England by the Vikings who settled along the Norfolk coast.

The Black Shuck is known to prowl about in the dead of night, along dark lanes and rural footpaths, and is primarily seen along the coastline and roadsides, or dwelling in graveyards, dark forests, or beside lakes. His footsteps make not a sound, but his howl chills to the very bone. Originally, seeing or hearing the Black Shuck is often considered an omen of death or illness; either of the person (very immediately) or close relatives (with some delay). However, in more recent accounts since the 19th century there have been tales of the Black Shuck being far more benign -- for instance, accompanying and protecting women travelling home at night, or helping lost travellers to find their way home.

Descriptions of the Black Shuck, including its haunting howls, seem to tie in to the common myth found across northern Europe since the 12th century of "The Wild Hunt." This tells of a ghostly band of hunters that fly through the cold night sky, bringing with them that same cold, howling wind. The Wild Hunt was practically synonymous with winter, and great winter storms. These hunting groups often travelled with dogs.

In a way, folklore tales such as this serve a valuable lesson in safety. Being out at night in cold and harsh conditions could easily mean death, and tales such as this would remind people to keep themselves warm and safe from the elements.

Places to read about the Black Shuck

Wikipedia, AllThatsInteresting, Myths and Folklore Wiki

And here is an article about the Wild Hunt from

Tales of the Black Shuck

This black dog, or the divel in such a likenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely dyed.
- A Strange and Terrible Wunder by Abraham Fleming (1577), describing an encounter at St Mary's Church, Bungay

He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer's blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound. You may know him at once, should you see him, by his fiery eye; he has but one, and that, like the Cyclops, is in the middle of his head. But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year. So you will do well to shut your eyes if you hear him howling; shut them even if you are uncertain whether it is the dog fiend or the voice of the wind you hear. Should you never set eyes on our Norfolk Snarleyow you may perhaps doubt his existence, and, like other learned folks, tell us that his story is nothing but the old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to us by the Vikings who long ago settled down on the Norfolk coast.
- Highways & Byways in East Anglia by W. A. Dutt (1901), describing the creature.

My Thoughts

It's really interesting how creatures from folklore can change overtime into different things in different places like this, if it is true it came from the vikings of course. Which is very likely in my opinion.