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The sources for these stories will be given at the end of the series.

There are many types of supernatural dogs to be found all over the British Isles.

This article focuses on the Cu Sidh – the Fairy Dog of the West Highlands, Cu (coo) being the Gaelic for hound and Sidh (shee) for fairy. A Supernatural Hound!In appearance the Cusidh was different from other Celtic fairy hounds in being dark green in colour, with a lighter green towards the feet, whereas other fairy dogs were white with red ears. It was said to be the size of a yearling bullock. It was shaggy, with a long tail coiled up its back, or plated in a flat plait. Its feet were enormous and as broad as a man’s: its great footmarks were often seen in mud or snow, but it glided along silently, moving in a straight line. It did not bark continuously when hunting, but gave three tremendous bays which could be heard by ships far out at sea. The fairy dog bark has been described as ‘a rude clamour’, sounding not unlike that if an ordinary dog, only much louder. There was usually a long interval between each bark, which gave the terror stricken listener a chance of making for safety before he or she heard the third bark. Apparently few objects produce more terror than the fairy dog if ever encountered on dark nights.

It is said that the fairy dogs were tied up inside the Brugh (broo) to be loosed on intruders. However they also went with the women looking for human cattle to milk or drive into the Sithein. Tradition has it that the Cusidh were sent out in search of human women to drive into the fairy mounds to become the nurse maids for fairy children. Sometimes a Cusidh would be allowed to roam alone, taking shelter in the clefts of the rocks. This Cusidh would be terribly formidable to mortal men or dogs, but those loosed in the brugh were driven back by the mortal dogs when they approached human habitations.

There are several stories re-told by the famous Highland folk story collector, Alasdair Alpin MacGregor, in The Peat-Fire Flame (1937) which give interesting insights into the legends surrounding these dogs.

The first, a folk-tale from Tiree, tells of an islander crossing the machair near Ceann a Mhara, and seeing a strange dog crouching by a sand dune immediately decided to take a different route home. The next day he felt brave enough to go back to the dune where he discovered the imprints of a dog’s paws as large as the spread of his palm. He traced the imprints some distance till they disappeared and could only conclude that they had been made by a fairy dog.

Evidence of a visitation by fairy dogs who leave their huge paw marks features in a story of Hynish Hill, in south west Tiree during the days when families moved to a summer shieling to pasture their cows. One night two young boys who were watching the cows to prevent them roaming off went into the sheiling to sleep, but were disturbed by heavy tramping on the turf roof and by loud howlings. Next morning the marks made in the turf by the fairy dogs were all too evident.

Also to be found in Tiree is a cavern traditionally known as the Lair of the Fairy Dog, where the barking of a huge dog has been heard.

The barking also features in a story of an old Tiree woman who, accompanied by a neighbour, was searching for driftwood on a stretch of the beach known as Reef. When she heard mysterious barking her neighbour grabbed her and rushed home with her, believing that if they had heard the dog bark three times they would have been overtaken by the dog.

Another story, this time from Lorne on the Argyll mainland, tells of a shepherd sheltering behind a rock who found two very large pups in a hollow beside him and was surprised to find that they were considerably larger than his own full grown collies. Realising they were the whelps of a fairy dog the shepherd made off quickly in case the mother should return! Apparently the shepherd’s dogs were just as apprehensive as their master.

These stories show a rich oral tradition based in a belief in fairy dogs, which also featured in Celtic religious tradition.

By Claire Cartmell

©Scottish-Deerhound.Com. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permission.

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Fearsome Black Dogs!In May 1993 I was granted the Cusidh affix (now jointly held with my daughter Elise Cartmell) when I bred from my foundation bitch Ardkinglas Pattie with Fearnwood Sound of Ryan. Later Pattie’s granddaughter Cusidh Sian was mated with Chapeltower Zog whose mother was Ardkinglas Polka, Pattie’s sister. My first deerhound who was very close to me died very young from cancer. Since then I had wanted an affix that suggested a connection with the world of the spirit so I put ‘Cu’ - hound with ‘Sith’ – fairy and only later discovered that there were mythological ‘Cusidhs’. I was, and still am, living in Fife and it also turned out that the ‘sidhe’ was a name for the early, probably pictish, inhabitants of Fife so the name was appropriate for me and my dogs.

The following articles tell some of the stories about these dogs and, as Francis Thompson notes in The Supernatural Highlands 1997,

‘The existence in Highland supernatural bestiary of this creature indicates the belief that animals as well as humans populated the spirit world of the Celts.’


By Claire Cartmell

©Scottish-Deerhound.Com. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permission.

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Thank you Verena for sending us this tale and images

The Vernon Girls Train To HuntNa'lee : I, as the Vernon Girl's Elder thought I'd tell you all a bit about the different forms of wildlife/prey you might encounter when travelling - we can not join the journey east as we are needed very much these days in fall to keep our garden free of bear and racoon, a task, Verena and the cats can't possibly do by themselves....

The Vernon Girls Train To HuntHermione piping in: oh yes, do tell, oh yes do!! I am listening!!!!

Na'lee : Let me continue, young one, I need to concentrate and I am asking for the help of all of us here, also Mahak, who meanwhile hunts in other realms - though I am sure she does come every so often to look after us and whisper her wisdom in recipient ears


Disa : As I am also called The Huntress, maybe I can be of some help right now ; I want to point out the 3 main forms of prey we encounter here, as there is the noble deer ………… the magic coyote, a mighty singer and trickster and, last but not least the majestic and strong blackbear

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Here is a 'charming' little tale about not very much. Written by the forum, taking turns at 5 words each. Whoever said too many cooks spoil the broth? I have inserted the odd punctuation mark. Read the full thread here.

I met a Deerhound yesterday while walking in the hills. He came bounding towards me when a rabbit shot by! Off he went a running, but the rabbit was too clever, and hid behind a large tree, with pretty flowers that harboured a large squirrel which was really a kangaroo aka sqirroo, with a machinegun! The deerhound called the pack
"you'll never take me alive!" and the sqiroo ran up the deerhound's big leg and and bit him on the hind leg, for which he let out a mighty howl! And jumped ever so high he knocked his head on the moon, saw stars and and floated down by moonbeam a branch of the tree Caught on his collar and the collar broke in half. The Deerhound stood and shook and thought...where was I???
The Squiroo laughed so much he fell off the branch and the hound pounced on sqirroo and took his machinegun and said "who's laughing now"!

The End! (or is it)

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Hey there, we have a great story to tell, it was very exciting here last week and all is well now, thank goodness.

Let's just start, we were out for our shortish afternoon walk just along the empty summer cottages along the lakeshore where we live. Not typical for her, but the 2nd time that week, Disa stayed out longer than we did. Verena called and called and eventually she came. A while later we got our dinner and all was well and Disa retreated afterwards to her couch for a good digestive nap. Verena noticed that Disa seemed extra sensitive on her paws and looked a bit" twitchy"; well, she thought Disa might have been laying "funny" on them and was feeling that tingling sensation when the circulation is interrupted. Only later, when we were supposed to go out for our last time into the yard, the ugly truth hit fully - Disa could barely stand, had extreme motion problems and looked " totally out of it " but was willing to eat (though with difficulties).

First call to a good friend who is a retired vet - they talked all kinds of things and symptoms. Stroke - no; tetanus - no; poison (antifreeze/rat poison ) very unlikely. So nothing conclusive but huge pupils, some fever, big motion problems with perhaps the nervous system affected, soft/normal belly, gums ok, heart, as far as Verena could say ok too. The decision was to wait it out a bit longer monitoring her. Verena syringed some water into Disa, gave lots of Tellington TTouch and Disa seemed to become calmer. Then the call to the emergency vet, who luckily in hindsight, was very unfriendly and also very expensive. So didn't go to him right away, but another call to the vet-friend. She then asked whether Disa might have had access to something alcoholic - not here at home, we know that, but perhaps some rotting fruit in a neighbours compost heap? That didn't seem likely as she had looked impeccable when coming back from her extra walk.

So, after many hours of watching, Verena went to bed. Disa didn't seem seriously ill, but really, really affected by something. Verena reckoned that Disa is the one of all her dogs and hounds who always does things exactly as she wants it and needs it. So, hard as it seems, she thought, if she wants help, she'll wake me up and if she wants to "quietly slip away" she'll do this too. An aspirin went in to bring the fever down and we all went finally to bed - Verena getting up every so often to check in on Disa. The next morning Disa was much better and that evening the explanation came - no not " boozing with a neighbour " – but she had found some pot out there in the neighbourhood (and Verena has a pretty good idea where and will never let Disa go there again!). Obviously Disa having a deep, deep soul and mind decided to give it a try - she had heard some rumors that it makes you relaxed and happy (things like that don't come easily to her). She won't tell us where her very own trip took her, we are a bit jealous - her taking off so far away without taking us with her - and so far!! We haven't seen much of a difference, only quite a bit more exuberance when Verena comes home from work. None of us here, including felines and humans, has ever done something like this and we just hope we do not have an addict amongst us now, who will steal our treasures in order to get more of her drug of choice. Any experiences with that ?????

From the other three Vernon Girls, relieved and slightly curious.

And now a drug free Disa!

Drug Free Dog


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