Many myths can be traced back centuries and are based on cultural folklore. Universally black is the color most often associated with bad luck and negativity. We say we have a “black cloud” over our head when things go wrong. Or we are in a “black mood” when feeling down. Black cats have long been associated with witches and bad luck. Did you know that there is also a bias toward associating black dogs with devilish acts. Winston Churchill used “Black Dog” as a metaphor for his depression.
The folklore of Britain and Europe are full of demonic black hounds. These emissaries of evil were large, dark and often had glowing red eyes. Black dogs are often associated with death and the supernatural in Greek mythology. Hercules’ final task was to capture Cerberus, the three headed hellhound who was the guardian of the underworld.
Many of the legends have been reincarnated numerous times over the centuries. Black Shuck, a monstrous black dog of Suffolk legend has blazing red fire eyes. Black Cadejo from Central American legend is a massive black dog with eyes that glow like coals and goat hooves instead of paws.
Is it possible that the evil black dogs in folklore, books and films has lodged a prejudice against black dogs in our subconscious? Movies have influenced our opinions of other breeds. Collies gained popularity after the movie Lassie Come Home and The Shaggy Dog boosted the popularity of Old English Sheepdogs. So movies that feature evil dogs such as the Hound of the Baskervilles and the Grim in Harry Potter taint our opinion of large black dogs.
In 2004 the term “black dog syndrome” was given to the phenomenon where dark coated dogs are overlooked in shelters in favor of lighter colored dogs. While there are no real statistics, dark coated dogs tend to take longer to adopt out of shelters. Theories include the fact that it is harder to read a black dog’s facial expression. A black dog is perceived as less friendly and generally more aggressive. It doesn’t help that the vicious dogs in movies are usually large black dogs.