Black Dog legends are common all over the world. One of the reasons may be that mankind and dogs have lived and worked closely together for thousands of years.
The dog has shared our fires at night, guarded our homes and worked for us during the day, herding or hunting. In many myths, dogs also carry out these duties at the edges, between worlds. You find Black Dog myths in Siberia, North America and all over Asia. Greek mythology also tells of the dog Cerberus, with three heads, which watches the entrance to the underworld.
How did the myth begin?
The Viking God Odin and his hounds
The origins of the Black Dog legends in England have been lost in the mists of time. But they might have begun with the Saxons or Vikings. Their god Odin had a dreadful hound and they brought their tales and beliefs to England. In the poem 'Baldrs Draumar' there is mention of the hellhound:
Up rose Odin, the ancient gautr,
and on Sleipnir laid the saddle.
Downward he rode to Nifhel;
he met a hound that came from Hel.
The name Shuck seems to go back to Anglo-Saxon times; it comes from 'scucca' (meaning demon) and so the link between black dogs and black spirits or demons may have grown from this.
In the East of England, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire all have examples of ghostly dogs, which appear in a flash and disappear into mist or cloud. Black Shuck is known as the feared hound of the marshes.
Is any of the story true?
St Mary's Church
Hugh Bigod really lived. He was born about 1095 and died in 1177 on a Crusade. He became Earl of Norfolk and had Bungay Castle built. The early chronicles (written histories) tell of his deeds and mischief making.
Old records also say that a terrible thunderstorm happened on Sunday the 4th August 1577. They say that Bungay Church tower was struck by lightning and damaged, and the church clock was shattered. The old records do not say that anyone was injured, but the Churchwardens' 'account' book says that two men in the belfry were killed. The storm also damaged the steeple and font in Blythburgh church.
Today the story would be explained because the Churches were struck by lightning. However, in the Elizabethan age, people were very superstitious and many accidents and disasters were thought to be the work of the Devil, so this story took hold.
For a long time, people had believed that a Devil's black hound roamed the area and it was very dark in the Churches, so it was easy to think that this evil beast caused the disaster.