Dogs have been by our sides for millennia and are loyal and loving protectors that millions of people gladly adopt. However, dogs have long held a place in the deepest recesses of our imaginations, and stories of several mythical beasts that are all or part dog have been around for centuries. Most mythical dogs are not the kind of dogs you take home to watch the kids and fetch your slippers, however, as they’re ferocious. Luckily, they are myths… or are they? Read on to find out more about these 10 fascinating mythical dogs!
The 10 Dogs in Myths & Legends
If one mythical dog stands out, it’s Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Greek legend. Cerberus guards Hades so that no souls sent there can ever escape. He grows snakes on his back that will bite, and his tail is that of a serpent rather than a dog. Cerberus also kept living people out of Hades and was once taken by force to the surface world when Greek hero Heracles was given the task to prove himself worthy.
You might never have heard of Orthros (aka Orthrus), but this mythical dog has been around as long as Cerberus because he’s his brother! Also, Orthros is the brother to the Chimera, the 3-headed lion. Orthros is another Greek legend with two heads, not three, and a serpent’s tail. He was tasked with standing guard on the island of Erytheia to protect the red cattle of Geryon. Orthros was one of the mythical children of Ekhidna, a she-dragon.
3. Axehandle Hound
The Axehandle hound comes from American legend and was started somewhere in the Midwest. As the name suggests, the Axehandle hound is a weird-looking creature with a dog’s body and an ax for a head. While not particularly dangerous to humans, the Axehandle hound was feared by woodsmen because his diet consisted of, you guessed it, ax handles. The creature would sneak around at night to camps all over the forest, stealing ax handles to munch on.
4. White and Black Cadejo
The White and Black Cadejo are mythical dogs from El Salvador whose tales have frightened children for generations. The Cadejo is said to be a ghost that takes the appearance of a dog. There are two kinds of Cadejo: a black Cadejo and a white Cadejo. The latter represents the good in people and the former the bad.
Fittingly, while the white Cadejo has pretty blue eyes, the black Cadejo has glowing red eyes. The white Cadejo’s main task is to prevent the back Cadejo from stealing the souls of El Salvador’s newborn children.
5. Black Shuck
If you find yourself lost in the English countryside at night, it’s best to find shelter lest you fall victim to the Black Shuck. Legend has it that, in 1577, as they were praying one night, a giant black hound attacked two parishioners in Bungay, England, and killed them both.
The massive hound, with “red eyes as big as saucers,” then made its way to another church, where the story goes that it killed and devoured two more poor souls. Today, while the legend continues, researchers believe that Black Shuck was likely an Irish wolfhound, Mastiff, or another giant dog breed. Still, if you’re in the English countryside for a spell, do remember to lock your doors at night.
Many mythical dogs are born from religious legends, and one of them is the Pesanta. As a gigantic, hairy dog, the Pesanta is said to have steel paws with holes in them. It uses those paws when standing on its victim’s chest and causes problems with breathing and sleeping. When not instilling nightmares, the Pesanta lives in abandoned churches. Legend has it that this mythical dog is incredibly fast, and if detected, all a person will see is the creature’s shadow as it slips away.
Ancient Greek people must have had a lot of time on their hands as they created yet another mythical dog, Argos. Argos was the faithful sidekick of Odysseus, the king of Greece. His task was to watch over and protect the Greek city of Ithaca while Odysseus was off fighting the Trojan War. Argos did so faithfully and defended Ithaca for 10 long years. When his master finally returned, Argos laid his head on Odysseus’ lap and passed away, content that he had fulfilled his task.
Coming from Japan is the legend of the Raijū, who was a mythical beast that often took the form of a dog or wolf. The Raijū, known throughout the country for many years in Japanese folklore, has changed frequently over the years. While it had dog-like features, the one thing that made the Raijū stand out was that its body was made of lightning.
What’s even more interesting (and terrifying) is that the Raijū can conceal itself in a person’s belly button, shooting out occasionally and causing the person great harm. For that reason, many believers in Japan sleep on their bellies to prevent a Raijū from entering their bodies.
In South America, there exists a legend about a monstrous dog-like creature called the Luison. The Luison has the habit of sleeping in cemeteries and, while there, feasting on the rotting flesh of the recently dead. The creature goes by several names depending on which South American country you’re in. In Uruguay, for example, it’s called the Lobizón, while in Brazil, it’s known as the Lobisomem. Whatever the name might be, you probably wouldn’t want to run into the Luison at night.
Our final fascinating mythical dog today is a Laelaps, the dog from Greek mythology. It is said that Laelaps was given by Zeus when he was trying to woo Europa, the mother of Crete’s King Minos. It was said that Laelaps never failed to capture its prey, which caused a significant problem when the beast was sent to kill the Teumessian fox.
The reason why is that the Teumessian fox could never be caught. The resulting paradox saw the two creatures chasing each other for centuries with no winner until, tired of the chase, the Greek god Zeus turned them both to stone.
Did you enjoy this closer look at some of the most famous and fascinating mythical dogs from around the world? We hope you did and that your new knowledge of these fearsome creatures won’t give you too many nightmares. One thing is certain; dogs have inspired humans to conceive unique and fascinating myths for generations, and sometimes the creatures that come from those myths are genuinely terrifying. Pleasant dreams!