Hellhounds are supernatural dogs found in the folklore and mythologies of many cultures. The names might change, but the ominous and deathly aura that surrounds them, does not. They are often times seen as guards to the underworld, though they've been known to guard cemeteries and have even been enlisted to hunt down lost souls. Hearing the howl of a Hellhound means certain death in some European countries.
The name for Hellhounds vary from country to country--- Barghest, Black Shuck, Dip, Cwn Annwn, Moddy Dhoo, Yeth Hound, Grim.....
Probably one of the most well-known of Hellhounds is the three-headed Cerberus from Greek mythology, who guards the gates of the underworld, preventing those who have crossed the river Styx from escaping. Though, when I took Mythology in High School, we never classified Cerberus as a "Hellhound"--- just a 3-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades.
Three heads aside (as this isn't the most common description of Hellhounds), these creatures are often described as having black fur and glowing red or yellow eyes. Some were even said to bear the stench of burning brimstone and sulfur. Supposedly, Underworld/ancient demons created the Hellhounds as heralds of death. They were known for their great speed and strength--making them effective guards and efficient soul-gatherers. There was no out-running the Hellhounds.....
The myth is put quite eloquently by great blues-master, Robert Johnson in his 1937 recording of "Hellhound On My Trail."
Ironically, Johnson's recording of "Hellhound" was part of the last recording he would ever make, released just 11 months before his passing. The rumor of Johnson's devil's-deal at the crossroads notwithstanding, Johnson's premature death at the tender age of 27 (making him one of the first members of the infamous 27-club) is still shrouded in mystery and remains unsolved, but, one can't help but marvel at his song's prophetic and ominous lyrics....
"I gotta keep movin', blues failin' down like hail....
And the days keep on worrin' me, there's a Hellhound on my trail."
Beware the Howls that Run at Midnight
Beware the howls that run at midnight,
the devil's close at hand,
stand not in the road's divide,
you know not who's beast or man.
Hold your tongue and guard your soul,
the spell takes but a word, no more,
mind the hoodoo curse's toll,
there's more than hot-foot powder at your door.
There'll be no peace once the howls have sounded,
their breath like scorching brimstone, hot,
their quarry sighted, the earth's soil pounded,
your flesh falls cold, your soul-less frame to rot.
Beware the howls and burning eyes,
your contract made, unspoken,
nowhere to hide,'cept the dark graveside,
your spirit's life now broken.