the Hell out of the Beast
Part One: The Name of the Dog
Concerning Shuck of East Anglia, generalisations abound.
He's black and shaggy, huge (usually the size of a calf), often headless, has one fiery eye, or two eyes the size of saucers that shine like lamps, he's loaded down with chains, he smells of sulphur, he haunts churchyards, roads, the coast, bridges, or marshland, he attacks lone wayfarers, only attacks when provoked, or accompanies people as a kind of guardian.
So run the basic tales, usually combining two, three or more of these characteristics to produce a coherent story. But the reported sightings and encounters, particularly from more modern times, seem to give a somewhat different picture. So I decided to do a breakdown of the cases herein, to see just what kind of a beast Shuck really is.
Sometimes it's difficult to determine which is a legend, and which is an encounter, but I've made my choices (right or wrong), and have analysed the 262 legends and encounters collected on this site, leaving out the Dubious Cases and Related Creatures.
Let's look at names first. Of the 83 legends here, 52 give the name of the dog, and only 70 of the 179 encounters. These are the names and number of instances that I've found in East Anglia:
As expected Shuck, or some variant thereof, is the most prolific, although 99 out of a total of 262 possible instances is hardly conclusive of ubiquity. You have to be careful though, as the name given to it may have been applied in error by the writer, or by someone (even the witness) simply using a name that they've heard in local tales.
As I explained in the Introduction, the meaning of the name 'Shuck' could be either from Old English 'scucca' (Devil, demon, goblin), or from dialectal 'shucky' (shaggy, unkempt, rough-haired.) I have to say that I'm more inclined to the latter. For one thing, the names Skeff, Rugman, Scarfe and Shug Monkey above all seem to derive also from words meaning 'shaggy.' For another, various place-names in England, according to the best etymology, contain the element 'scucca' - such as Shuckburgh, Shucknall, Shocklach, Shobrooke - but not a single one exists in East Anglia. If the word survived here with such force as to give name to the most widely-known phantom, I find it hard to understand why it didn't result in at least one place-name.
[Actually I've now found an exception to the above, except that it refers to a field-name rather than a place-name. The hamlet of Runham is now in the parish of Mautby, in the old Hundred area of East Flegg in Norfolk where there has long been a tradition of Shuck haunting the marshes at night. (See East Flegg.) An estate plan of lands belonging to William Boult of Runham in 1828 shows a field called 'Shukfer Marsh', apparently deriving from scucca and faer 'road, passage', and which the place-name expert Karl Inge Sandred related to the Shuck legends.]
I'm fairly sure that we can exclude the name 'Padfoot' - from near Woodbridge in Suffolk - as being a genuine usage, as that's a name otherwise known only in the north of England. It's said that 'Galleytrot' is also known in the North Country, but I haven't been able to find an example of it.
'Black Dog' is usually used in the context 'Black Dog of...' somewhere or other, and here, it only applies to four different locations - including one where it's called the 'Black Dog of Norfolk', almost certainly generically applied to mean Shuck himself.
**At this point, I'd like to make a plea!
When researchers and folklorists talk of studying and recording phantom dogs and related beasties, they nearly always call them all 'black dogs' -even when they're not black, and not dogs. They use it as a generic term for the phenomenon - 'the black dog' - which can be misleading and confusing.
I'd really like to term them all 'paradogs' (and am tempted to do so, even though it turns out that the name also belongs to more than one website, a film production company, a rock band, and a night club in Prague!) But in order to avoid any legal conflicts, I'd be content if we could use the term 'paracanines' instead. I will, anyway.
At least it's better than the increasingly-used and all-encompassing 'zooform phenomena'!