7 Types of Hellhound from Great Britain & Europe

In the video “7 Types of Hellhounds from Great Britain & Europe” by Mythology & Fiction Explained, you will explore the fascinating world of hellhounds and their different types. Contrary to popular belief, not all hellhounds are evil. These supernatural dogs can be found in folklore worldwide, and they play various roles such as guarding the entrances to the land of the dead, assisting in the afterlife, or even bringing back souls from the underworld. With their dark black mangled fur, menacing crimson eyes, and sometimes even engulfed in flames, hellhounds have captured the imagination of many cultures. In this video, you will learn about the different types of hellhounds and their appearances, along with the roles they perform in different mythologies. From the Welsh interpretation of a benign spectral hound to the terrifying black shuck that haunts graveyards and dark forests, the legend of the hellhound is common across Great Britain and Europe. Join Mythology & Fiction Explained on this exciting exploration of hellhounds and their fascinating tales.


Description and role in Greek mythology

Cerberus is one of the most well-known hellhounds in mythology. In Greek mythology, he is depicted as a three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail and a lion’s mane. He was said to be the offspring of Echidna, a half-woman, half-snake monster, and Typhon, a fire-breathing giant. Cerberus was known as the watchdog of the Underworld, guarding the entrance to Hades. His primary role was to prevent the living from entering the realm of the dead and to ensure that the souls of the deceased did not escape.

Guardian of the Greek Underworld

As the guardian of the Greek Underworld, Cerberus’ role was to keep the spirits of the dead from leaving and the living from entering. He was believed to possess an unwavering loyalty to Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, and would only allow those with his permission to pass through. Cerberus’ enormous size and ferocious nature served as a powerful deterrent, striking fear into anyone who dared to approach the gates. With his three sets of razor-sharp teeth and fearsome gaze, he was a formidable creature that embodied the fearsome reputation of the Underworld.

Guides the dead to the afterlife

While Cerberus’ reputation as a fearsome guardian is well-documented, he also played a role in guiding the dead to their final destination. According to Greek mythology, the newly departed would approach the River Styx, a boundary between the world of the living and the Underworld. There, they would encounter Charon, the ferryman, who transported souls across the river. It was Cerberus’ duty to allow them to pass, ensuring that they reached their destination in the Underworld. Despite his terrifying appearance, Cerberus had a vital role in ensuring the proper transition of souls from the mortal realm to the afterlife.

Welsh Hellhound

Origin and appearance

In Welsh mythology, there is a legendary creature known as the Welsh Hellhound. Often referred to as the ‘Dogs of Hell,’ these monstrous canines are said to roam the countryside, lurking in the shadows and terrifying those who encounter them. Descriptions of their appearance vary, but they are commonly depicted as large, black dogs with glowing red eyes. The Welsh Hellhounds are believed to have supernatural qualities, with some stories suggesting that they can change their size at will and grow to be as big as a horse.

Known as the ‘Dogs of Hell’

The Welsh Hellhounds have earned their ominous reputation, particularly due to the belief that hearing their howl is a sign of impending death. Legend has it that if someone were to hear the baying of these spectral hounds, it is an omen that someone close to them will soon pass away. This association with death has led to the perception of the Welsh Hellhounds as guardians of the boundary between the living and the dead. It is said that they roam the night, relentlessly pursuing lost souls and escorting them to the afterlife.

The Black Shuck

Found along the English coastline

The Black Shuck is a legendary hellhound that has been a prominent figure in English folklore for centuries. It is most commonly associated with the coastal regions of East Anglia, where tales of its encounters have captivated the imaginations of locals and visitors alike. According to legends, the Black Shuck usually appears during thunderstorms and on dark, stormy nights, making its presence known along the desolate beaches and mist-covered marshlands.

Appearance and characteristics

The Black Shuck is notorious for its appearance, which is often described as a large, shaggy dog with glowing red eyes. Some accounts suggest that the creature may possess a single, cyclopean eye, while others claim that it is entirely eyeless and relies on its other heightened senses. Its fur is said to be as dark as the night, blending seamlessly with the shadows and making it an elusive and terrifying sight.

Terrifying but rarely deadly encounters

While encounters with the Black Shuck are undeniably terrifying, they are rarely deadly. It is more commonly associated with being an omen of misfortune or imminent death. Witnessing the Black Shuck is believed to foretell tragedy or disaster, and it is often linked to shipwrecks, accidents, or even the death of a loved one. However, despite its fearsome reputation, the Black Shuck is generally not considered to be an aggressive or malevolent being, but rather a spectral presence whose appearances are meant to serve as a warning.

7 Types of Hellhound from Great Britain  Europe

The Barghest

Legend in Yorkshire

The Barghest is a fearsome hellhound that is deeply rooted in the folklore of Yorkshire, England. Its name is believed to derive from the words “barg” and “geist,” which mean “goblin” and “ghost” respectively. This monstrous creature is traditionally described as a large, black dog with fiery red eyes, possessing the ability to emit an eerie, glowing light. According to legend, the Barghest’s appearance is a harbinger of impending doom, often preceding tragic events or the death of someone in the community.

Monstrous appearance and behavior

The Barghest’s terrifying appearance is matched only by its menacing behavior. It is said to roam the moors and desolate countryside, particularly during the darkest hours of the night. Its chilling howls can be heard echoing through the night, causing shivers to run down the spines of those unlucky enough to hear them. The Barghest is believed to have the power to shape-shift, often taking the form of a headless spectral monk or a headless lady dressed in white. This ability to change its shape serves to further instill fear in those who may cross its path.

Capable of shape-shifting

The Barghest’s shape-shifting abilities are a source of both fascination and terror. It is said to have the ability to assume different forms, appearing to unsuspecting victims in guises that evoke a sense of dread and uncertainty. The headless monk, for example, is said to be a warning that tragedy or death is imminent. The headless lady, on the other hand, is believed to be a sign of forthcoming calamity. These shape-shifting abilities add an air of unpredictability to the Barghest’s legend, further cementing its status as a creature to be feared.

The Gytrash

Northern English folklore

In the folklore of Northern England, the Gytrash is a hellish creature that bears resemblances to a large, black dog or horse. However, unlike the typical depiction of hellhounds as ominous and menacing beings, the Gytrash is more commonly associated with mischief and trickery. It is often described as having glowing eyes and tangles of matted fur, making it a slightly unnerving presence nonetheless.

Trickster-like hound

Unlike some of its more dangerous counterparts, the Gytrash does not pose a direct threat to human life. Instead, it revels in mischievous behavior, using its supernatural abilities to play pranks and lead unwary travelers astray. It is said to lurk in the darkness, waiting for the perfect opportunity to appear before lone wanderers, attempting to confuse and disorient them with its otherworldly presence.

Ability to lead travelers astray

The ability of the Gytrash to lead travelers astray has made it a subject of cautionary tales in Northern English folklore. Many stories warn of the dangers of encountering this supernatural hound and falling victim to its misleading guidance. Travelers who find themselves lost or disoriented in the moors or other remote areas are often cautioned to be wary of the Gytrash’s presence, as it can exploit their vulnerability and lead them further astray.

Church Grim

Spirit of the church

In English folklore, the Church Grim is a spectral guardian that is said to protect churches and their graveyards. It is often described as a large black dog, with glowing or fiery red eyes, and is believed to be the spirit of a dog that was buried alive beneath the church’s foundations during its construction. Rather than being a menacing presence, the Church Grim is generally considered to be a benevolent figure, though its behavior can be unpredictable.

Appearance and behavior

The Church Grim is typically portrayed as a spectral dog with matted fur, sometimes appearing disheveled or as if it has been soaked in water. Its eyes, often described as glowing or fiery, pierce through the darkness, providing an eerie sight for those who encounter it. Despite its ghostly appearance, the Church Grim is known to be protective of the church and its grounds, warding off any potential threats and ensuring that the church remains a sacred space.

Enjoyment of loud noises and ringing bells

Although the Church Grim is generally perceived as a guardian figure, its behavior can be somewhat enigmatic. It is said to have an affinity for loud noises and the ringing of bells. Some tales suggest that the Church Grim enjoys tolling the bells of the church, especially during storms or other moments of turmoil. This behavior is believed to drive away evil spirits and protect the church from any harm that may befall it. The Church Grim’s relationship with sound and its enjoyment of the ringing of bells adds an additional layer of mystery to its supernatural nature.


Guardian in Norse mythology

In Norse mythology, Garm is a fearsome hellhound that stands guard at the gates of Hel, the realm of the dead. Garm is often portrayed as a wolf or a dog of immense size and strength, with fiery eyes and a bristling mane. According to legend, Garm’s duty is to prevent the souls of the dishonorable dead from escaping and ensure the security of the realm of the dead.

Description and role as a wolf or dog

The depiction of Garm as either a wolf or a dog varies in Norse mythology. In some tales, he is described as a monstrous wolf, while in others, he is depicted as a dog. Regardless of his form, Garm is always a formidable figure, radiating an aura of power and intimidation. His fierce nature and imposing presence make him a formidable adversary for anyone who dares to challenge him. As the guardian of the gates of Hel, Garm’s role is to keep the souls of the dishonorable dead contained and prevent any escape from the realm of the dead.

Protector of the gates of Hell

Garm’s role as the guardian of the gates of Hel is crucial to the Norse mythological cosmology. His presence ensures that the realm of the dead remains secure, with no unauthorized entry or escape. According to the legends, Garm’s ferocity and strength make him an equal match for any opponent who seeks to challenge him. Garm’s constant vigilance and unwavering commitment to his role underline his importance as a protector and enforcer of the divine order.

Hellhounds in Different Cultures

Variations and similarities in hellhound depictions

While hellhounds are often associated with the underworld and guardianship, their appearances and characteristics differ across various cultures. Cerberus, for example, is depicted as a three-headed dog in Greek mythology, while the Welsh Hellhound is described as a large, black dog with glowing red eyes. The Barghest, on the other hand, is said to have the ability to shape-shift, often taking the form of a spectral monk or a lady in white. Despite these variations, many hellhounds share common elements, such as their association with death and their role as guardians or guides.

Examples from various cultures

Hellhounds are not confined to Greek, Welsh, and English mythology. Similar creatures can be found in numerous other cultures around the world. In Celtic folklore, the Cù Sith is a fairy hound from Scottish mythology that is believed to have a similar role as a guardian or protector. In Japanese folklore, the Inugami is a dog spirit that can be summoned to bring about good fortune or cause harm, depending on the intentions of its summoner. These examples highlight the widespread presence of hellhounds in mythologies and cultures across the globe.

Shared characteristics and roles

Despite their cultural differences, many hellhound depictions share common characteristics and roles. They are often associated with the supernatural and the afterlife, serving as guides, guardians, or protectors. These creatures are typically depicted as powerful and formidable, striking fear into the hearts of those who encounter them. Additionally, their association with death and the otherworldly creates an aura of mystery and intrigue around them. While the specific details may vary, the overarching theme of hellhounds remains consistent across cultures.

Hellhounds as Supernatural Creatures

Diverse nature of hellhounds

The term ‘hellhound’ encompasses a diverse range of creatures, each with its own unique characteristics and abilities. From guardians and protectors to tricksters and bringers of death, hellhounds play a variety of roles in different mythologies. This diversity reflects the rich tapestry of supernatural beliefs and folklore found throughout history. These creatures occupy a space between the mortal realm and the afterlife, embodying both fear and curiosity in equal measure.

Appearances as wild animals, protectors, guides, and tricksters

Hellhounds can manifest in numerous forms, sometimes taking the shape of real-world animals like dogs or wolves, while other times presenting themselves as monstrous entities. They can be protectors, guarding sacred spaces or boundaries, or guides, assisting souls on their journey to the afterlife. In contrast, some hellhounds adopt trickster-like roles, using their supernatural abilities to confuse or mislead unsuspecting individuals. This versatility further contributes to the allure and mystique surrounding these supernatural creatures.

Broad definition of the term ‘hellhound’

Due to the wide range of depictions and interpretations, the term ‘hellhound’ has a broad definition that encompasses a multitude of creatures. It encompasses both legendary beings from mythology and folklore as well as fictional creations from literature and popular culture. These interpretations draw upon a vast array of beliefs, creating a rich mythology surrounding these creatures. This breadth of meaning demonstrates the enduring fascination with hellhounds and their enduring place in human culture.


Hellhounds have captivated the imaginations of people across cultures and generations. From the ferocious Cerberus of Greek mythology to the mischievous Gytrash of Northern English folklore, these supernatural creatures have carved a niche for themselves in the realm of myth and legend. They serve as guardians, guides, tricksters, and portents of misfortune, each with their own unique characteristics and roles. The diversity and mythology surrounding hellhounds highlight the enduring fascination with these creatures and their significance in human culture. Whether feared or revered, the hellhound remains a captivating figure that continues to capture our imagination and ignite our curiosity.

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