Maurice Fleming in Not of this World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland gives interesting accounts of more recent sightings of supernatural dogs which are summarized here. One story from the 1960’s near the Bridge of Cally, Perthshire tells of a large reddish-brown dog which crossed in front of a car and was clearly seen by all four passengers. Another episode took place in 1995 Aboyne when John Stewart of Blair Atholl saw a large dark coloured dog that he spoke to, but when he went to touch it his hand went right through it! This was not his only experience as he also saw a black dog run in front of a car but nothing was lying on the road when the car passed. Even more frightening is the account of a black dog walking so close to a woman as touch her leg, but she could see that its paws never touched the ground.
A well known story is The Grey Dog of Morar that is seen on an island on Loch Morar, apparently having been abandoned there by a man about to enlist on his return he was killed by the wild pups of this bitch who is still to be seen to this day.
Other stories of ghostly encounters are with rather more fearsome dogs and some stories connect black dogs with the devil or see them as witches in disguise. Such dogs can have other roles - for example guarding underground treasure and even being the form that a human who was committed a crime takes as a punishment.
One such tale is The Ghost o’ Mause from eighteenth century Perthshire where the black dog is the ghost of a murderer. Another story his time of a ‘green lady’ who when she makes amends for her crime a large black grey hound is seen crossing the moor never to be seen again.
Could it be that such lingering superstitions account for the difficulty of homing rescue greyhounds who are black in favour of fawns etc. which home more quickly?
Morris Fleming also gives an account of his own sighting a well known apparition the black dog of Tornacarry and concludes ‘It is to be expected that dogs which have been man’s help and companion since early times have become deeply embedded in his folklore…’ Man’s best friend can have another side to him especially if he is black or grey?
The next part will look at the Sluagh or Host of the Air with a Cusidh story connected to this belief and other related stories of packs of supernatural dogs.
By Claire Cartmell