Now that October has officially begun (and since October 1 is National Black Dog Day), we’ve decided to give you a chill with the scariest (or perhaps the silliest, depending on your beliefs) superstitions surrounding dogs.
Black dogs fall victim to the Black Dog Syndrome, which suggests dark-coated dogs in shelters are harder to find homes for because of superstitions or the idea that they seem “scary.” The superstition, believed around the world, claims that a black dog is a portent of death. In its latest incarnation—the Grim in the Harry Potter saga—the black dog is huge, like a bear, and jet-black, with yellow eyes and is an omen of death.
And white dogs don’t have it any better. According to a Scottish legend, a white dog crashing through the moors predicts war.
Some believe that a dog howling is a sign of an impending death in the family. (The Swedes have a variation on this: It’s not a howling dog that predicts death but a dog banging the ground with his forepaw.) Stanley Coren, a columnist for AKC Family Dog, told us of several origins for this superstition: “Some people trace the association between dogs howling and death back to ancient Egypt. In that time and place, the god that took care of the dead was Anubis, who had the head of a dog. Thus, a howling dog was believed to be calling a soul to Anubis.
In Ireland, it was thought that dogs howl because they hear the spectral pack of hounds that lead the riders of the ‘Wild Hunt’ through the sky collecting the souls of the dying.
An ancient Norse legend has a more amusing explanation. It speaks of Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility, magic, and also of death. When she is acting as the goddess of death, she rides the crest of a storm on her chariot pulled by giant cats. Because cats are dogs’ natural enemies, it is said that dogs would start to howl when they sensed the approach of Freya and her mystical felines.”
The Brits have an antidote: If you hear a dog howl, take your shoe off your left foot, spit on the sole, and place the shoe bottom-up on the ground. Then, place your foot on the spot where you spat.
The Brits also have antidote for illness that involves a canine superstition: In the 1800s, pressing a toy spaniel against your chest was supposed to be a cure-all. Also, from British lore: If a dog eats the hair of a sick person, the person will be cured. And from unknown origin: Mixing dog urine and blood was thought to cure warts.
What superstitions have you heard about dogs? Tell us below!