Gabriel Hound

Black Dog of northern England.

Etymology: First recorded around 1665. Originally, a spectral dog in a pack led by the pre-Christian spirits Herne or Gwyn that escorted souls to the underworld; in Christian folklore, the pack was transferred to the care of the

Archangel Gabriel. An alternate explanation is that the word is derived from an ancient word, gabbara ("dead body").

Variant names: Gabble ratchet, Gabriel ratchet, Sky yelper.

Physical description: Huge dog with a human head. Sometimes described as a spectral bird with glowing eyes.

Behavior: Makes eerie howls. Said to travel high in the air and hover over a house when misfortune is about to occur.

Distribution: Lancashire, Derbyshire, and Cleveland, England.

Possible explanation: It is said that the sound of migrating Bean geese (Anser fabalis) flapping their wings can be mistaken for the baying of a pack of these hounds. The howling or "gabbling" sounds might also be produced by a Curlew (Numenius arquata), Eurasian wigeon (Anaspenelope), or Eurasian teal (Anas crecca).

Sources: Lewis Spence, The Fairy Tradition in Britain (London: Rider, 1948); Katharine M. Briggs, A Dictionary ofFairies (London: Allen Lane, 1976), p. 183; Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 139.

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