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Known everywhere across Europe, the Black Dog has always been closely associated with death, darkness and ghostly apparitions from the afterlife, for as far back as European historical records go.
All over England, it was known by numerous different names; Barghest (Bargtjest, Bo-guest, Bargheist, Bargeist, Barguist, Bargest or Barguest); Black Shuck; Old Shuck (Old Shock); Shuck; Galleytrot; Gurt Hound (Gurt Dog); Gytrash; Trash; Padfoot; Hairy Jack; Shag; Striker (Skriker); Capelthwaite; Wisht Hounds (Wishthounds); Lean Dog; Cwn Annwn; Gwyllgi; Moddey Dhoo (Mauthe Doog); Oude Rode Ogen; Tibicena; and Dip (among numerous other epithets).
It was even said that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Hound of the Baskervilles (the eponymous dog spirit featured in the Sherlock Holmes mystery of the same name) was based on the famous Black Dog legends.
Despite its generic name of 'Black Dog', this creature is easily distinguishable from a normal dog, to the trained eye.
True, they may be resemble nearly any medium-to-large breed of dog (commonly a Mastiff, German Shepherd, Doberman Pincher, Rottweiler, Pitbull or the like), but they are always seen in peak physical condition; athletic and fit to pursue. There will never be found a scrawny or flabby Black Dog. It would be more likely to find one larger than a typical dog (perhaps the size of a small horse or a big cat).
In addition, while some have traditional canine eye colors, it is more common to see them with glowing red, white, yellow or green eyes.
A Black Dog is a very smart, brave and loyal canine. Though, it has a serious demeanor (never playful like normal dogs), and can sometimes be a bit temperamental. Even if taken in by a master (often a being with infernal ties), they are not the kind to fetch sticks and balls.
In fact, they are not known to loaf about at all, or dawdle in any place where it has nothing important to do. As harbingers of death, they feel the compulsion to go wherever there is someone about to die, and so they seldom remain in any one place at a time. They are particularly drawn to stormy places, due to an ominous fondness for thunderstorms.
An when it has arrived, a neutral Black Dog will try to make sure a victim's death goes as planned; a good Black Dog will try to help the victim, keeping them from harm and looking out for them; but an evil Black Dog will often try to lead the victim to ANY death (whether or not it was intended) and may even attack the victim himself...
A Black Dog is spectral in nature. As such, it possesses many supernatural abilities (in addition to the typical ghostly capabilities of disappearing and going through solid matter).
Naturally, a Black Dog can perceive death (past, present and future) in its radius. A victim's impending death draws the Black Dog toward them (stronger Black Dogs may even teleport to the locations of future victims). Once it finds its victim, it looks them straight in the eye so they know unmistakably who they are (stronger Black Dogs use this eye contact to initiate, within the victim, a vision of his own demise).
However, some Black Dogs have a harder time manifesting into the material realm, and so instead take possession of mortal dogs; this is also common if they are evil-aligned.
In addition, they are naturally smarter than regular dogs (some even say that they are as smart as humans); this makes them nearly impossible avoid when they go about their work (or if they feel particularly malicious).