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5 Dogs From Myths and Legends: Canine Folklore & Mythology (With Pictures)

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

anubis head, egytian god of death

5 Dogs From Myths and Legends: Canine Folklore & Mythology (With Pictures)

From Cerberus, the three-headed guardian of Hades, to Sir Gawain’s loyal hound Gringolet, dogs have long been a part of mythical and legendary tales.

It is no surprise; dogs were the very first animals domesticated by humans around 30,000 years ago. It would take 10,000 years before we’d domesticate the next ones: horses and other ruminants.

Suffice it to say, our relationship with dogs has been long and complex, imbued with symbols of loyalty, power, and friendship. Here are five dogs from myths and legends that have captured our imagination over the centuries.


The 5 Most Famous Dogs From Myths and Legends

1. Cerberus

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One of the most famous mythological dogs is Cerberus, the fearsome watchdog of the underworld (Hades). In Greek mythology, Cerberus is depicted as a black, three-headed dog with snakes growing from his back and a serpent’s tail.

As the monstrous guard dog of Hades, he had two jobs: to stop living beings from entering the underworld and to stop anyone from escaping. Anyone who tried to escape Hades was devoured by Cerberus—they quite literally became a snack.

Despite his frightful job and appearance, Cerberus had an endearing quirk: he enjoyed music. So much so that the mythical hero Orpheus was able to pass into Hades by charming the beast with a song.

2. Mauthe Doog

Mauthe Dog
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Mauthe Doog is another legendary black dog, but far less terrifying than Cerberus. This calf-sized canine haunts the Isle of Man’s Peel Castle, located in the Irish Sea between Ireland and England.

One brave soldier tried to enter a tunnel in the castle where Mauthe Doog was said to dwell, only to come running out screaming with terror. Three days later, he died of fright. The tunnel was never used again, but it is unclear whether it was because of Mauthe Doog or just the fact that it was way too creepy.

Despite his spooky reputation, Mauthe Doog can also be quite friendly. If you’re lucky enough to spot Mauthe Doog (or Moddey Dhoo, as he is also known) don’t be too scared; legend has it that this ghostly hound won’t harm you! In fact, guards at the castle saw him so often that they eventually became unfazed by their spectral visitor.

Although Mauthe Doog is seen less often these days, it is said that people still catch a glimpse of him from time to time.

3. Okuri-Inu

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The Japanese also have their own version of a spectral hound, known as Okuri-Inu. This demon dog is said to follow travelers on their journey, and while this may sound like a comforting notion, there’s an ominous twist.

If you stumble while walking, the Okuri-Inu will take this as a sign that you are tired and attempt to eat you. To avoid becoming dinner, you must convince the demon dog that your stumbling was intentional by saying something like, “This is exhausting” or “Quite glad I stopped on purpose to check out this mud puddle.”

If you reach your destination safely, you must give thanks to the Okuri-Inu by leaving it food. This is sort of like a treat for being such a good watchdog, and not a murderous one!

4. Cadejo

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The Cadejo is a Central American canine that comes in two forms: the white Cadejo and the black Cadejo.

The white Cadejo protects travelers from theft, harm, and other dangers of the night. The black Cadejo, on the other hand, is bad news. Aside from leading travelers to danger, it also throws punches. So not only will it lead you to disaster, but it will also fight you to get there because the black Cadejo can throw punches like the best human boxers.

Worse, the legends disagree on which one is the protector and which one is the danger. To make things more confusing, turning your back to either the white or black Cadejo or speaking to them will drive you mad. So you should hope that neither of them follows you on your travels!

5. Tiangou

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Chinese legend is home to Tiangou, a flying black dog who thought the sun was a snack. So he ate it and caused a solar eclipse.

Naturally, the people panicked. To save them, the god of birth Zhang Xian had to fire arrows at Tiangou to scare the naughty dog away. Tiangou eventually gets scared, causing him to throw up in the sun and ending the solar eclipse.


Final Thoughts

These famous mythological dogs have captivated our imagination for centuries, inspiring stories of heroism, loyalty, and friendship. And while they may not actually exist in real life, it’s clear that their presence is still felt in myths and legends around the world.

Featured Image Credit: Fer Gregory, Shutterstock

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