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Coat Colors…… Myths and the Folklore that Surround them

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162 – November/December, 2020

By Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia

In the canine world there are four main colors: black, brown, white, and red, and they come in many variations and shades. Some become so popular they are given their own special names such as gold, yellow, cream, blue, black and tan, grey, etc. With so many colors to choose from, it is not surprising that a preference for or against a certain color was destined to develop.

Interviews with dog owners and breeders confirmed that most have a favorite color, as do members of the general public. In some cases, their likes, dislikes and attitudes for and against a certain coat color can be linked to cultural folklore and attitudes they developed early in life. One of the best places to learn about their likes, dislikes and attitudes was to examine the myths and folklore surrounding black dogs and cats. This search uncovered a complicated network of events and beliefs that permeate many cultures today. The behaviors and special meanings given to the color black can be found in the ideas about happiness, death and bad omens, all of which can be linked to stories about witches. In most cultures, children learn at an early age the myth about black dogs and cats and witches.

There are several theories as to origins of the superstitions surrounding black dogs and cats, but for the best answers, we only need to review the history of the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe and the consequences of the Black Death that had both immediate and long-term effects on populations across the world. Often referred to as “The Plague” or the “Black Death”, it was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350 and affecting an estimated one-third of the continent. The Black Death had social, economic, political and religious consequences. People began to believe that only God’s anger could produce such horrific displays of suffering and death, and no one in the 14th century considered rat control a way to ward off the plague. Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian writer and poet of the era, questioned whether it was sent by God for their correction or that it came through the influence of the heavenly bodies,[3] and Christians began to accuse Jews of poisoning public water supplies in an effort to ruin the European civilization.

Europe suffered a significant death toll from the plague with estimates ranging between one-third to one-half of the total European population. Most scholars estimate that the Black Death killed upwards of 75 million people[2] in the 14th century at a time when the entire world population was still less than 500 million.[4][7]

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162 – November/December, 2020

Short URL: https://caninechronicle.com/?p=193005

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