Not Always A Man’s Best Friend: Terrifying Black Dogs of British Legends

Not Always A Man’s Best Friend: Terrifying Black Dogs of British Legends

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Primarily associated with British legends, stories about black dogs, ghost dogs, or hellhounds are present in almost every region of the world. Perhaps the first things to come to your mind when thinking of eerie ghost dogs are evil images, death omens, or even the two-headed dog Cerberus from Greek mythology. That makes sense, as most of the time these shadowy creatures are depicted as malevolent beings, but did you know that sometimes they are seen as great protectors too?

The immense popularity of dog legends is not a surprise, since dogs were humanity’s first domesticated animals - the man-dog partnership has been traced back to the Paleolithic era and lasted for thousands of years. To narrow down black dog legends, this article will focus on some of the alarming British versions.

A friendlier depiction of ‘black shuck.’ (ed_needs_a_bicycle/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )

Black Dogs in the United Kingdom

No other place in the world holds more legends, or sightings, of legendary black dogs than the United Kingdom. Each region might even have its own version of the tale, with different names given to the black dogs too, such as: Black Shuck, the Gurt dog, Padfoot, Barguest, the Harry Hound, the Yeth hound, and the Grim.

Like most legends, the origin of this one is hard to establish. Mark Norman, who has been researching the legend of black dogs in England for many years, has traced the earliest accounts in English literature dating back to 1127. According to Norman’s studies, black dogs can take different forms, but a few common traits are present in all descriptions: they are very large creatures, with shaggy coats, and big glowing eyes (usually red in color).

Different details make the dogs unique, such as having a chain around their necks, been headless, or even having human faces. Some legends describe the ghost dogs as huge, even as big as a house; others say they walk on their hind legs . The dark beasts are notorious for disappearing into a mist and leaving no trace of their eerie visits.

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Drawing of the Black Dog of Newgate, from the book ‘The Discovery of a London Monster Called the Black Dog of Newgate,’ published in 1638.

Although these supernatural animals are most often depicted as malevolent creatures bringing bad luck, black dogs have also had benevolent connotations - as protective spirits attached to a family or a location, such as roads.

Legendary Creatures

One of the most popular British ghost dog legends is said to have taken place in Bungay Market in Suffolk. It begins with a violent storm breaking out on the morning of 1577, while the parishioners of a church were commemorating a Sunday service. Lit by flashes of fire, a black dog appeared in the church, running around and causing a great deal of panic among the people. The ghost dog allegedly claimed the life of two men, who were kneeling at prayer, and caused severe burns on another one.

Title page of the account of Rev. Abraham Fleming's account of the appearance of the ghostly black dog "Black Shuck" at the church of Bungay, Suffolk in 1577: "A straunge, and terrible wunder wrought very late in the parish church of Bongay: a town of no great distance from the citie of Norwich, namely the fourth of this August, in ye yeere of our Lord 1577."

Although that dog portended death and destruction, there are a few benevolent legends involving a black dog, such as the one told by Johnnie Greenwood from Swancliffe. The man described being followed by a black dog while walking at night in the woods. The creature remained by his side until he emerged out from the trees. Years later, two prisoners confessed that they wanted to rob and murder Johnnie during that night in the woods, but they decided otherwise after noticing the presence of the big black dog accompanying him.

James Barnes relates another very popular black dog story from Dartmoor:

“On Dartmoor, the notorious squire Cabell was said to have been a huntsman who sold his soul to the Devil. When he died in 1677, black hounds are said to have appeared around his burial chamber. The ghostly huntsman is said to ride with black dogs; this tale inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his well-known story The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

Illustration from ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’

What Can You Do in the Presence of a Ghost Dog?

Let’s just say that it is better to never have an encounter with a ghost dog because, most often, there is nothing you can do to stop the creature if it is out to do you harm. There are ways to ward off the malevolent beings, but these tend to be vague. In regions dominated by the Christian faith, it is said that simply wearing a cross or having a picture of a saint would be enough to keep the black dog away.

Other superstitions involve carrying a coffin nail, sprinkling fresh water on the ground behind you as you walk, or keeping a pair of iron scissors with you. In addition, it is said that you should avoid crossroads, moving bodies of water such as rivers and streams, woods, or long stretches of field. Those restrictions would have made travel near impossible in the past!

An evil black dog in the woods. ( John Knifton )

Black Dogs Across the World

There are so many black dog legends that you could easily indulge for years in the richness of these tales. For those who are interested in knowing more about other legends involving ghost dogs, these are some more regions to look into: guardian hounds in shamanic lore, Celtic legends, Welsh legends, Finnish mythology, Northern European myths, North American legends, Asian legends, Greek myths, stories in almost every region of the United Kingdom, myths involving the constellation Canis and the star Sirius, and lastly, the legendary creature’s presence in pop-culture - such as the Harry Potter character ‘Sirius Black’.

Many scholars have attempted to explain the reasons behind black dog legends and their popularity across the globe. Their interpretations range from lessons in folkloric tales to unknown phenomena described by our distant ancestors. No one can provide one answer encompassing all the legends perfectly.

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From the beginning of our history, humans have been endangered by wolves, which were much larger than their domesticated cousins in most locations around the world. This could explain the malevolent nature of some ghost dog tales and their reputation as hellhounds. Other reasons might be associated with stories told to children in order to prevent them from wondering into dangerous places. Another explanation is related to the hidden dangers of smuggling routes.

All or none of these could explain the local black dog legend closest to you. Whether they bring good or evil tidings, black dog stories are still present and thriving all over the world.

Painting of black shuck. ( Cambridge Ghost Tours )

We don’t know exactly when dogs were first domesticated by humans, but it was probably more than 15,000 years ago. Studies have shown that genetic diversity among dogs in highest in Asia, which means the domestication of dogs probably happened there first. It’s impossible to say exactly where the practice began, but dogs were a part of Chinese culture from its very genesis, and their remains have been found in the country’s most ancient archaeological sites. This doesn’t mean that dogs of that age were particularly well cared for, though. Dogs, along with pigs, were considered a chief source of food and were also commonly used in ritual sacrifices.

But dogs were also used by the ancient Chinese as helpers when hunting, and hunting dogs were kept and trained by many Chinese emperors. Several breeds of dogs were developed in China, such as the Pekingese, Shar Pei, and Tibetan Mastiff.

In more recent history, dogs were common in rural areas, where they served in part as companions but mostly as work animals, performing functions like shepherding and assisting with some of the farm labor. Although these dogs were considered useful and often given pet names—as is true for Western farm dogs—they weren’t generally considered pets in the Western sense of the word and were also considered a potential source of food if the need for meat ever outweighed their usefulness on the farm.

Scary Black Man

In many series, there will be a character who is much larger and more intimidating than most everyone else, very strong, often quite quiet, and very often this character will be black.

Sometimes they can be the Token Minority, sometimes they're a Proud Warrior Race Guy, and sometimes they're a Gentle Giant. But the fact remains that when you get right down to it, they're a scary black man. Not necessarily evil, just. scary.

Authors will often claim this is not actually done in a racist way (not intentionally, anyway), as most anybody who is so much larger than the other characters will usually be equally scary (unless they're also outgoing or jolly). However, perhaps because of a lack of very large Asians who aren't sumo or very large white people who aren't professional wrestlers in a cameo role, they are often black. (This is the same reason that a Huge Schoolgirl usually isn't mean, either.) However, American media depictions cannot escape the legacy of the Big Black Buck (as featured in such influential films as D. W. Griffith's pro-Klan propaganda film The Birth of a Nation), the savage (noble or not), or modern thug culture. Amongst other reasons, when much of the creating population and the consuming population is not of African descent, then the Black Guy becomes Other, and as such, easier to position as an imposing, scary force.

The few black characters in anime are usually some variation on this. However, this is not the place to discuss the reason.

See also Scary Minority Suspect. Often Crosses over with Gentle Giant, Genius Bruiser, Proud Warrior Race Guy, and Token Minority, as noted both above and in the examples below. Compare Angry Black Man.

Note that the character doesn't necessarily have to be of African descent, just large, imposing, brown/dark-skinned, and have a tendency to make people wet themselves with a single glare. If a Black male character has other characters fearing him after he performs a certain action he is not a Scary Black Man, a Scary Black Man has people fearing him because of his intimidating appearance. Despite some of the Unfortunate Implications associated with this Trope, some of these characters become popular because of how badass they are. The obvious subversion is to make this character not nearly as scary personality-wise as their imposing first appearances might otherwise suggest. Another subversion can be to have the character only act this way in certain specific situations&mdasha man might be a loving father and an otherwise affable and easygoing person. who immediately turns into an enraged Papa Wolf whenever his loved ones are threatened.

Despite the trope name, female examples do exist. But since female characters are rarely portrayed as fighters or overtly threatening in the same way that male ones are, Scary Black Women remain a distinct rarity, and are more commonly portrayed as sassy black women instead.

The 18 Best Dog Poems for Every Wag-Worthy Occasion

This past year, I became an aunt to my brother and sister-in-law&rsquos dog, Remi. As the mother to two kitties, I&rsquod always counted myself a cat person, but hanging out with Rem soon had me falling head over heels in love with this dog. Before long, I was #dogstagramming with dog selfies and everything, which got me searching for dog poems. Is &ldquodog poetry&rdquo a thing? Oh, yeah!

Turns out, many poets have taken up the pen to capture the essence of man&rsquos best friend. In these poems about dogs, a variety of poets tackle distilling fido&rsquos spirit into verse, with quirky, poignant, and happy dog poems among them. From Emily Dickinson to Pablo Neruda, this selection of poets demonstrate the range of ways we relate to dogs in these short dog poems. And if you&rsquore looking for rainbow bridge poems, skip to the end for a few of the best dog poems for those in grief.

1. &ldquoA little Dog That Wags His Tail&rdquo by Emily Dickinson

A little Dog that wags his tail
And knows no other joy
Of such a little Dog am I
Reminded by a Boy

Who gambols all the living Day

The Cat that in the Corner dwells
Her martial Day forgot
The Mouse but a Tradition now
Of her desireless Lot

2. &ldquoThe Dog&rdquo by Ogden Nash

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I&rsquove also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

3. &ldquoLittle Dog&rsquos Rhapsody into the Night&rdquo by Mary Oliver (read by Mary Oliver)

4. &ldquoThe New Dog&rdquo by Linda Pastan

Into the gravity of my life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper
and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense
of my old simplicities-

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen.

5. &ldquoBereavement&rdquo by Kevin Young

Behind his house, my father&rsquos dogs
sleep in kennels, beautiful,
he built just for them.

They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails

& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal

& forgetful.
Each day they wake
seeking his voice,

their names.
By dusk they seem
to unremember everything&mdash

to them even hunger
is a game. For that, I envy.
For that, I cannot bear to watch them

pacing their cage. I try to remember
they love best confined space
to feel safe. Each day

a saint comes by to feed the pair
& I draw closer
the shades.

I&rsquove begun to think of them
as my father&rsquos other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.

My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.

They are outside dogs&mdash
which is to say, healthy
& victorious, purposeful

& one giant muscle
like the heart. Dad taught
them not to bark, to point

out their prey. To stay.
Were they there that day?
They call me

like witnesses & will not say.
I ask for their care
& their carelessness&mdash

wish of them forgiveness.
I must give them away.
I must find for them homes,

sleep restless in his.
All night I expect they pace
as I do, each dog like an eye

roaming with the dead
beneath an unlocked lid.

6. &ldquoA Dog in San Francisco&rdquo by Michael Ondaatje

Sitting in an empty house
with a dog from the Mexican Circus!
O Daisy, embrace is my only pleasure.
Holding and hugging my friends. Education.
A wave of eucalyptus. Warm granite.
These are the things I have in my heart.
Heart and skills, there&rsquos nothing else.

I usually don&rsquot like small dogs but you
like midwestern women take over the air.
You leap into the air and pivot
a diver going up! You are known
to open the fridge and eat when you wish
you can roll down car windows and step out
you know when to get off the elevator.

I always wanted to be a dog
but I hesitated
for I thought they lacked certain skills.
Now I want to be a dog.

7. &ldquoBitch Is A Word I Hear A Lot&rdquo by Kim Parko

I hate the word, and I guess that&rsquos why it is said?
People love to hurt one another.
It is what makes us human.
I do love dogs.
They don&rsquot seem to be evil unless humans make them that way.
Dogs can maul and they can sniff out bombs.
They&rsquoll get as close to you as they can while you&rsquore sleeping.
They&rsquoll share heat and scent in the crook of your knees.
Is there really a thing such as innocence?
I have desired from birth to live.
Daily, I wrestle the tight arms of guilt.
At the shelter, the adoption coach told us that our new dog was highly food motivated.
I have been called a bitch.
Our dog trembles when he&rsquos afraid and the only thing we can do is wait for the fear to leave.
There&rsquos no comforting him.
In a dream they held me down, scrawled BITCH across my chest in old embers.
They covered my head as a weapon was raised.
I had a dog who once kept me from walking into the arroyo.
She blocked my path and wouldn&rsquot move.
I&rsquoll never know what, or who, she saved me from.

8. &ldquoThe Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz&rdquo by Alicia Ostriker

#DogPoetry #DogsLife #MyDugLove

A post shared by Dug (@dugdogofficial) on Nov 24, 2018 at 6:59pm PST

9. &ldquoLost Dog&rdquo by Ellen Bass

It&rsquos just getting dark, fog drifting in,
damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint,
and though I call his name
until my voice cracks,
there&rsquos no faint tinkling
of tag against collar, no sleek
black silhouette with tall ears rushing
toward me through the wild radish.

As it turns out, he&rsquos trotted home,
tracing the route of his trusty urine.
Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead,
not stolen by a car on West Cliff Drive.

Every time I look at him, the wide head
resting on outstretched paws,
joy does another lap around the racetrack
of my heart. Even in sleep
when I turn over to ease my bad hip,
I&rsquom suffused with contentment.

If I could lose him like this every day
I&rsquod be the happiest woman alive.

10. &ldquoWaiting for Happiness&rdquo by Nomi Stone

Dog knows when friend will come home
because each hour friend&rsquos smell pales,
air paring down the good smell
with its little diamond. It means I miss you
O I miss you, how hard it is to wait
for my happiness, and how good when
it arrives. Here we are in our bodies,
ripe as avocados, softer, brightening
with latencies like a hot, blue core
of electricity: our ankles knotted to our
calves by a thread, womb sparking
with watermelon seeds we swallowed
as children, the heart again badly hurt, trying
and failing. But it is almost five says
the dog. It is almost five.

11. &ldquoDog&rdquo by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (read by Bill Murray)

12. &ldquoDog Around the Block&rdquo by E.B. White

Dog around the block, sniff,
Hydrant sniffing, corner, grating,
Sniffing, always, starting forward,
Backward, dragging, sniffing backward,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Leash in people&rsquos feet entangle&mdash
Sniffing dog, apprised of smellings,
Love of life, and fronts of dwellings,
Meeting enemies,
Loving old acquaintance, sniff,
Sniffing hydrant for reminders,
Leg against the wall, raise,
Leaving grating, corner greeting,
Chance for meeting, sniff, meeting,
Meeting, telling, news of smelling,
Nose to tail, tail to nose,
Rigid, careful, pose,
Liking, partly liking, hating,
Then another hydrant, grating,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Tangle, sniff, untangle,
Dog around the block, sniff.

13. &ldquoWhen Buying A Dog&rdquo by Jay Ward (performed by Jay Ward)

14. &ldquoDharma&rdquo by Billy Collins

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance-
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she
would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

15. &ldquoI&rsquoll Never Forget A Dog Named Beau&rdquo by Jimmy Stewart (read by Jimmy Stewart)

16. &ldquowe have no choice in the bodies that hold us&rdquo by Holly Amos

Thing of dirt and water and oxygen marked by thinking
and reacting and a couch
one may or may not be permitted
to sleep on. He may not permit me
to touch him or to take the bone
from his mouth, but he does, and that&rsquos a choice
based on many factors, not the least of which
is his own desire to let me
do these things. How I could ever
think or feel myself more
deserving of a single thing than
this being, whom I call by a name the same way
my parents chose a name for me. The same way my genes
went expressing themselves to make my face exactly
my face. This isn&rsquot special. Or this is special. But it&rsquos one
answer, the same, for us both.

17. &ldquoA Dog Has Died&rdquo by Pablo Neruda, Translated from the Spanish by Alfred Yankauer

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I&rsquoll join him right there,
but now he&rsquos gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I&rsquoll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I&rsquoll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he&rsquod keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea&rsquos movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean&rsquos spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don&rsquot now and never did lie to each other.

So now he&rsquos gone and I buried him,
and that&rsquos all there is to it.

18. &ldquoHalf Border and Half Lab&rdquo by Heather McHugh

Customs and chemistry
made a name for themselves
and it was Spot. He&rsquos gone to some
utopos now, the dirty dog, doctor of
crotches, digger of holes. Your airy clarities be damned,
he loved our must and our mistakes&thinsp&mdash&thinspwhy hit him, then,
who did us good? He&rsquos dead, he ought
to be at home. He&rsquos damned
put out, and so am I.

When blue is carried out, the law is red.
When noon is said and done, it&rsquos dusk again.
The greed for table makes the greed for bed.
So cave canem, even stars have litters&thinsp&mdash&thinsplittle
lookers, cacklers, killers . . . Morning raises up
the hackled men. (What&rsquos
milk, among our ilk, but
opportunity for spillers?)

He saved our sorry
highfalutin souls&thinsp&mdash&thinspthe heavens haven&rsquot saved a fly. Orion&rsquos
canniness who can condone?&thinsp&mdash&thinspthat starring story, strapping blade!&thinsp&mdash
and Sirius is&thinsp just a Fido joke&thinsp&mdash&thinspno laughter shakes the firmament.
But O the family dog, the Buddha-dog&thinsp&mdash&thinspson of a bitch!
he had a funny bone&thinsp&mdash

10 Most Famous Dogs in History

1. Toto, the Cairn Terrier

Many of us know the line from the beloved film, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy laments to her canine friend, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” But what others may not know is the story behind this famous doggie actress, even though this is easily one of the most famous dogs in history. Toto, whose real name was Terry, was abandoned as a puppy. Luckily for her, however, she was adopted by German immigrant Carl Spitz, who was the unofficial dog-trainer of Hollywood.

With his help, she was trained to become one of the most coveted canine actresses of her generation, starring alongside some of the time’s biggest stars, including Judy Garland. Before her close-up in The Wizard of Oz, Terry was already well-versed in the ways of the silver screen. By the end of her career, she had been cast in 17 films, living to be 11-years old.

2. Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd

Perhaps not only one of the most famous dogs in history but also the most famous of his breed, Rin Tin Tin, was found in war-ravaged France during WWI and adopted by an American soldier named Lee Duncan. The rest of Rinty’s – an affectionate nickname he would come to be called – litter, sadly, didn’t make it. In his new life in Los Angeles, Rin Tin Tin was catapulted to stardom when he caught the eye of a filmmaker at a dog show where he reportedly jumped 12-feet high.

Shortly thereafter, Rin Tin Tin came to star in nearly 30 films, many of which were written specifically for him. Before his sudden death – which left his owner devastated – Rinty was the unofficial doggie mascot of Warner Bros. Studios, effectively saving the small studio from bankruptcy.

3. Lassie, the Rough Collie

This long-coated, unique dog was of the most popular canine movie stars of the ’40s and ’50s, solidifying his name as one of the most famous dogs in history. Of course, many other canine characters – Shiloh, Wishbone, Benji – but none endure quite like Lassie. Even up to the recent 40 years, Lassie has been re-envisioned by a ‘90’s TV Series and a 2005 full-length film being made about the famous Collie.

Although Lassie’s character is female, the part has always been given to male Collies. The original was a Rough Collie named Pal. Since Pal died in 1958, all Lassie roles have been held by pups of his bloodline. And it’s quite the lucrative family business to go into, as reports show Pal made twice what his human co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, made in Lassie Come Home.

4. Trakr, the German Shepherd

More than 300 Search and Rescue dogs aided their human counterparts in the coming months following the September 11 th attacks helping find and uncover survivors from the miles of rubble. One report found that the dogs were especially distraught at the lack of survivors they were able to find, as they saw it as an unsuccessful means to their job.

Of this K-9 team was Trakr and his police officer handler, James Symington, who drove to New York City from Canada to help locate those trapped or no longer breathing under Ground Zero's rubble. Trakr and Symington are credited with finding the last survivor, a woman who had been imprisoned under heavy concrete and steel for over 24-hours. Their actions earned Trakr the title of one of the most famous dogs in history.

Trakr was recognized by Time magazine as one of the ten most heroic animals of all time, but his fame didn’t stop there. In 2009, Trakr was chosen to be cloned by BioArts International, who had been cloning belated family pets privately for a pretty penny. As a winner of the “Best Friend Again” contest, Trakr’s clone was reunited with his owner, Symington, who continues to train the heroic dog's descendants to be Search and Rescue canines.

5. Bobbie the Wonder Dog, Collie-Shepherd Mix

Many of us include our pups with us on trips. This was the case, too, for the Braziers when they drove from Silverton, Oregon, to Wolcott, Indianan, to visit family with their two young daughters and family pet, Bobbie, a Scotch-Collie, and English Shepherd mix. After a scuffle with a few stray dogs, Bobbie took off. Sadly, the Brazier family had to return home to Oregon, and despite leaving behind instructions should the pup turn up, they believed they’d never see their family pet again.

However, they were in for a shock when 6 months later, Bobbie turned up scratching and pawing at his owner’s front door. Closer inspection showed that Bobbie had crossed over 2,500 miles in the cold season of winter to be reunited with the Braziers. Bobbie’s story became national news in a matter of weeks, and he was thrust into the spotlight. His stardom brought even more stories, many from people who claimed to have helped him on his journey, feeding him scraps, giving him water, or tending to his scraped-up paws.

He gained so much attention that in 1924, Bobbie even starred in a silent film. In 1927, Bobbie was buried at the pet cemetery ran by the Oregon Humane Society. Today, this is one of the most famous dogs in history that we know of. Tourists from all over the world can visit this faithful pup’s grave as well as view a 70-foot mural honoring his journey in downtown Silverton, the home he traveled so many miles to return to.

6. Balto, the Siberian Husky

While many may be familiar with the 1995 children’s film Balto, some may not realize that the cartoon is based on fact. In the middle of the 1920s, in the middle of a frigid winter, the quaint town of Nome, Alaska, had a fatal case of diphtheria on their hands. With no means of transportation available to them than dog-sleds, Anchorage, Alaska seemed a very far 500 miles away. But it was there that Nome's community needed to be to gain a medical serum that would resolve the health crises.

Many volunteers in the village stepped up, ready with their team of loyal, athletic dogs. Creating a chain across Alaska, each musher set up at different “checkpoints” where they would be relieved, allowing for the sled teams to experience some intermitted rest during the five-day journey. Musher, Gunnar Kaasen, and his young Siberian Husky, Balto, were the last stretch of the “race.”

The serum successfully brought to Nome was the hard work and bravery of many men and their canine companions. Still, Balto became the face of monumental success and is now known as one of the most famous dogs in history. Today, a bronze statue in Central Park pays homage to the steadfast endurance and courage we’ve come to associate with our canine friends.

7. Nemo, the German Shepherd

During the nearly 20-year span of the Vietnam War, the U.S. Armed Forces utilized thousands of military dogs (over 3,500 to be exact). Dogs played a key role in this war, especially when compared to others. The Viet Cong were lithe and shrewd, hiding expertly among the humid jungle they called home, making it near impossible to find them, consequently giving them a huge advantage. Thanks to their incredible sense of smell and hearing abilities, sentry dogs were able to alert their human counterparts to the presence of enemy soldiers even when the dogs couldn’t see them.

Security Police K-9, Nemo A534, was among the several sentry dogs stationed at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base as part of the security detail. While on watch, these dogs would alert soldiers of approaching enemies. Often these dogs lost their lives shortly after vocalizing their barks as an early warning. On December 4 th , 1966, Nemo and his handler successfully killed two VCs but not without suffering wounds of their own. A bullet entered Nemo’s eye and left out of the side of his snout. Despite his injury, Nemo warded off any potential approachers by laying across his wounded handler’s body until military paramedics arrived. Nemo would never see out of his right eye again.

Shortly after, the military retired Nemo. As a retired and decorated war veteran, Nemo accompanied recruitment officers, hoping to gain K-9 enlisters. At his death in 1972, Nemo received a proper burial, with his tombstone inscribed, “May all who hear the story of Nemo, know the true measure of man’s Best Friend.” Today he's considered not only one of the most famous dogs in history but one of the greatest war veterans.

8. Jofi, the Chow Chow

Sigmund Freud is a well-known name in the world of psychology. Freud imparted several psychoanalytical theories, and most everyone, even if not interested in psychology, knows his name. But many may not know his great affection for dogs, particularly the Chow-Chow breed. While he came to own many dogs during his career as the pioneer of psychoanalysis, none compared to Jofi (sometimes spelled Yofi).

Freud was infatuated with his canine counterpart and believed that dogs, especially Jofi, held the ability to read humans. He even enlisted her to help him study patients by noting her own sense of calm or wariness around the strangers. Freud ascertained that a relaxed Jofi meant his patient was relaxed, whereas a stand-offish Jofi meant his patient was anxious.

The intelligent, gentle Chow-Chow became such a staple in her master’s office that she began to internalize the famous doctor’s sessions' duration. When Jofi got from her resting spot and headed for the door, Freud knew that it had been exactly 50-minutes since the session began and could politely tell his patients, “Time’s up!” As Freud's name was becoming more popular, his pup became one of the most famous dogs in history.

9. Lex, the German Shepherd

Just 5 months after being stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, Marine Dustin Lee and his trained canine companion, Lex, encountered a fatal rocket attack for Dustin. Lex, although injured by shards and shrapnel, survived the attack. The faithful dog, reportedly, had to be forcibly dragged from his owner’s side so that paramedics could inspect the young Marine. In his youth, Dustin Lee was described as an animal lover and owned many childhood dogs and rode horses.

In the military, Dustin was a soldier and a dog-trainer, roles that eventually gave him the title of kennel master while on base in Albany, Georgia, before his deployment. While he loved training all canines, his bond with Lex was impenetrable. After his death, his ailing family pleaded with the U.S. Marine Corps to retire bomb-sniffing canine soldier Lex so that they could adopt the dog. After months of conversation and paperwork, Lex became the first working military dog to receive early retirement to be adopted by a lost Marine's surviving family and keeping his title of one of the most famous dogs in history.

10. Sinbad, the Lovable Mutt

In the midst of the looming Second World War, a Coast Guard vessel set out to watch over the eastern coastline. However, little did the captain of the ship know that one of his mates had unwittingly bought himself a puppy the night before. Initially intended to keep his girlfriend company while he was at sea, sailor “Blackie” Rother didn’t anticipate his girlfriend’s landlord having an issue with pets. So he headed back to vessel Campbell with the well-intentioned present hidden inside his sea bag.

Sinbad, a brown and black mutt, was shortly discovered by the captain, who somewhat surprisingly saw the animal as an opportunity to teach his crew responsibility, ordering them to take care of the dog. Perhaps not far from the captain’s line of reasoning, taking care of Sinbad became a resource of bonding and comradery among the sailors. So much so that Sinbad even became enlisted, signing his papers with a paw dipped in ink. Sinbad took his enlistment seriously he was promoted to Chief Dog after several years of being in 1 st Class.

Sinbad lived to see 14 years of life, with 11 of them proudly serving with the United States Coast Guard. He was buried with ceremony and officially recognized as a Coast Guard Cutterman, honoring the five years he spent on the Campbell in which he even witnessed wartime. Now his memory lives on as one of the most famous dogs in history.

  • Image show what some dog breeds looked like before selective breeding
  • Many dogs have been developed to be more disease prone than before
  • We designed 167 different breeds with unique physical and mental traits
  • Humans began a relationship with dogs some 18,000 to 30,000 years ago

Published: 22:02 BST, 7 March 2016 | Updated: 10:00 BST, 8 March 2016

They may be man's best friend, but man has also changed them beyond all recognition, these incredible pictures of dog breeds reveal.

But just as we have modified food to taste better, we have also bred dogs to have unique physical and mental traits.

A new series of pictures show how human's obsession to create the perfect canine has shaped certain breeds into being almost unrecognizable from hundreds of years ago - and introduced painful diseases in the process.

Humans have been domesticating dogs before they learned how to farm. But with our obsession to create a perfect breed, they are almost unrecognizable from their early ancestors. Here, the English bulldog is said to be the most changed dog from its ancestors, as it has endured so much breeding that it suffers from almost every disease possible.


Some breeds are partially susceptible to certain hereditary defects and illnesses.

For example, retrievers are prone to inherited eye disorders such as juvenile cataracts.

Chronic eczema is common among German Shepherds, Healthline reported.

Dogs including the Shar Pei and Basset Hound can be bred for folded or droopy skin that can interfere with their vision.

Jack Russells are prone to glaucoma, which may result in a gradual loss of vision.

Irish Setters can have a serious hereditary neurological disorder known as quadriplegia.

The lead leading cause of death among English Bulldogs is cardiac arrest, cancer and old age.

The Pug's curled tail is actually a genetic defect that leads to paralysis.

Dachshunds are prone to achondroplastic related pathologies, PRA and problems with their legs

Dogs with the condition sometimes have trouble standing up and suffer seizures.

By identifying which traits are the strongest and better looking, such as size, coat and demeanor, we have designed at least 167 different breeds with unique physical and mental characteristics,according to the Science of Dogs.

This breeding is slowly mutating and disfiguring dogs and some of these changes have caused these animals unbearable pain.

The pressure to create the perfect canine derives from American Kennel Club standards, which is the official guidelines for show dogs.

These standards can be from the colour of the dog's eyes, size of their paws to the curve of its tail.

'Nowadays, many breeds are highly inbred and express an extraordinary variety of genetic defects as a consequence: defects ranging from anatomical problems, like hip dysplasia, that cause chronic suffering, to impaired immune function and loss of resistance to fatal diseases like cancer,' James A. Serpell, a professor of Animal Ethics and Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, told WhoWhatWhy.

'The only sensible way out of this genetic dead-end is through selective out-crossing with dogs from other breeds, but this is considered anathema by most breeders since it would inevitably affect the genetic 'purity' of their breeds.'

Most of the present day dog breeds can only be traced back about 150 years when the breeds were first registered and codified during the Victorian Era in England, reports Tech Insider.

Hachiko was an Akita dog in 1920s Japan who is still remembered for his extraordinary loyalty to his master. Hachiko was adopted by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at Tokyo University. Over the years, the two developed a deep bond and soon became the best of friends. Eizaburo loved his dog dearly and treated him as his son and the bond between the two had become well-known.

Every afternoon, Hachiko would see the professor off to work in the morning at Shibuya Station in central Tokyo and then wait for him to return from work so that the two could walk home together. Unfortunately, one day while at work, Ueno passed away in March 1925 after suffering from a sudden attack of a cerebral hemorrhage. That evening, too, Hachiko waited for the owner to return but sadly, he never did.

The dejected dog was later taken in with a former gardener of the Ueno family. However, every afternoon, Hachiko continued to wait for the professor at the train station. He would sit there for hours, patiently waiting in vain for the return of his beloved owner. Days turned into months and months turned into years, but Hachiko&rsquos loyalty toward Ueno remained unwavering. Throughout the rest of his ten-year-long life, he kept going to the Shibuya Train Station every single day and waited for his master.

Hachiko&rsquos story had traveled all over Japan by then and he had become a national hero. When he died in 1935, a bronze statue in his loving memory was built next to Shibuya Train Station. The statue still stands today, reminding us how deep and everlasting a dog&rsquos love can be.

Here are the Top 24 most dangerous dogs in the world

24. Boer Boel

The Boer Boel dog is a huge Mastiff dog breed belonging to South Africa. The dog was bred as a guard dog for a farm or a house . They were used as the first line of defense against predators.

They are very intelligent in attacking and restraining an injured victim. They are very loyal dogs that are very protective of their owner and family.

23. Gull Dong

The Gull Dong is a very strong mixed dog breed from Pakistan. It is a crossbreed of Bully Kutta and Gull Terrier. These are the breeds that Gull Dongs are often confused with.

Gull Terrier Dog is also called Pakistani Bull Terrier , and The Bully Kutta is referred to as The Pakistani Mastiff , Indian Mastiff, or PBK. The Gull Dongs is a cross of a combination of 3 quarters Gull Terrier and one quarter Bully Kutta.

Gull Dong takes the trait of agility and quickness from Gull Terrier and the size and power from Bully Kutta in appearance and appearance. It is a medium-sized dog, taller than the Gull Terrier and more compact than the Indian Mastiff or The Bully Kutta.

Not much is really known by experts about the history of The Gull Dong apart from its origin.

It belongs to British colonial India, in the area that became part of Pakistan in 1947. The dog breed is super powerful and strong. The Dong was specially bred to be a fighting dog. Sometimes it can become very aggressive and difficult to control.

22. Basenji

Basenji is a well-known local hunting dog breed that has its origin in central Africa. Classified as a strong hunting dog, Basenji shows curiosity, alertness, and affection . However, they are quite reserved with strangers. Of all the breed types, Basenji is the second least trainable dog.

21. Caucasian Ovcharka / Caucasian Shepherd

The Caucasian Ovcharka, also called the Caucasian Shepherd, was originally bred to protect livestock. A Caucasian Ovcharka is strong-willed, assertive, and courageous.

However, they pose only a threat and exhibit unmanageable and vicious tendencies when not properly trained and socialized. They are not accepting of people and therefore lack the strong urge to defend themselves.

If you are not ready to take care of a dangerous dog like the Ovcharka Caucasus, you should opt for smaller dog breeds.

20. Shar Pei

Shar-Pei is a dog, which is domesticated but still needs proper socialization and training to become a good pet. If not trained well, they can pose a serious risk to humans around and become aggressive.

These dogs are known for their wrinkled skin folds. Like many other dogs on the list, Shar-Pei was also bred to be a loyal guard dog in China.

19. Dalmatian

Surprising, but true! The classic heroes of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians made it onto the list of the world’s most dangerous dogs.

Dalmatians are large in size with muscular bodies. They have great stamina compared to most dog species in the entire animal kingdom . However, if irritated to a certain extent, the level of damage they can cause is unimaginable!

18. Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington Terrier might look very similar to a miniature sheep in appearance. But it is not a dog that can be crossbred, especially when it is another dog species of the same size.

The reason we’ve included Bedlington Terrier in this list because this dog is considered a “Versatile Dog, good with children and suitable for killing any other dog of its weight.”

17. Korean Jindo

This Jindo is the national dog of Korea. It is a favorite pet because of its kind and loyal nature. If he is kind and loyal, why included in the list of the most aggressive dogs in the world? Well, he also has a scary side!

If you don’t take enough care of the dog’s breed, their pleasant nature can soon turn into a dominant and destructive trait.

Now, these are common behavior that all owners would like to avoid having in their pets! So, make sure you train them very well and show enough affection and care.

16. Chow Chow

This East Asian dog breed is one of the oldest still in existence. One Chinese legend called the dog: the large war dogs from Central Asia that resembled black-tongued lions. Chow Chows are called Songshi Quan in northern China , which means “ Swollen Lion Dog, ” and it’s easy to see why, with their small ears and bushy “manes.”

They also have powerful jaws like a lion with a bite force of 220 pounds per square inch (PSI) and can become aggressive due to their owners’ lack of socialization or over-protectiveness.

One Chinese ruler was said to have owned about 5,000 Chows . Most often kept as pets, Chow Chows tend to recognize strangers and protect their owners and property.

15. Pakistani Bulldog – Bully Kuta

The Bully Kutta is a type of large dog that dates back to the 16th century in the Indian subcontinent. The Bully Kutta is a working dog used for hunting and guarding. The type of dog is very popular in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, including Haryana and Delhi, and in Tamil Nadu.

This strong, intelligent dog is known by several names, including Bully Gull Terrier, Gull Dong, and Kanda. Pakistani Bulldogs are smart, loyal, and strong-willed, which means they need an owner who is a strong leader.

Without proper, consistent training and a watchful eye, they can be quite dangerous.

14. The Japanese Akita

The Akita, also known as Akita-Inu, is a large breed of dog originating from the mountainous regions of northern Japan. There are two separate breeds of Akita: The Japanese strain, commonly called Akita Inu or Japanese Akita, and the American strain, called Akita or American Akita.

The Japanese strain has a narrow color range, with all other colors considered as typical of the breed, whereas the American strain comes in all dog colors. The Akita has a short double coat similar to many other northern spitz breeds.

Akitas tend to be very strong. They naturally have an imposing appearance, and their calm nature can reinforce this impression.

Although affectionate towards their favorite humans, Akitas tend to be protective, wary of strangers, and not particularly fond of other animals. They can be dangerous without proper training and careful handling.

13. Perro de Presa Canario

The Presa Canario is a Spanish breed of big dogs also known as Canary Mastiff or catch type of dog. These large dogs come from the autonomous region of the Canary Islands and are found mainly on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Often described as a strong-willed and dominant dog. The Presa Canario is used as a working dog for livestock but is a combination of several breeds of fighting dogs. There are rumors that this breed, like the pit bull, is also used in lethal dogfights.

12. Fila Brasileiro

The Fila Brasileiro, also known as The Brazilian Mastiff , is a large working dog breed and was developed in Brazil. It is known for its excellent tracking ability, aggressiveness, and unforgiving, boisterous temperament. Instead of attacking its prey, the Fila Brasileiro captures its prey and waits for the hunter to arrive.

These dogs make excellent guard dogs but require experienced owners. They are known to be very aggressive and protective and are feared for their uncontrollable behavior. Many deaths and attacks have been reported in the past.

11. The Bullmastiff

Bullmastiffs are smart, athletic, and energetic dogs. They have a naturally aggressive temperament that can prove fatal if not properly cared for . Bullmastiffs are generally used as guard dogs because of their temperamental behavior.

These dogs can become reliable and obedient with consistent training from a young age. Bullmastiffs caused 14 deaths between 2005 and 2017, according to

10. The American Bulldog

American Bulldogs are a well-balanced, athletic dog that exhibits great strength, endurance, agility, and a friendly demeanor. In the past, they were bred as working dogs, used for farm work. According to, they caused 15 deaths (3.5%) between 2005 and 2017.

9. Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamutes are high-energy dogs, and if their energy is not used positively, they can turn into quite aggressive dogs! They have an emphatic need to hunt prey, so they should be carefully groomed! Another important thing is that they learn slowly, which requires a lot of patience in training!

The CDC reported 12 dog bite-related deaths attributed to Alaskan malamutes . For suspected malamute mixes, 3 deaths are listed, which may or may not have been malamute as they are several breeds with a similar appearance.

While the Alaskan Malamute can be an independent dog like fellow sled dogs like the Siberian Huskies, their size, strength, and stamina can make them a handful for an inexperienced owner who is unable to train and socialize them when they were younger.

8. Kangal

This large sheepdog breed has its roots in Turkestan and comes from the Mastiff Dog Family. The Kangals are big and strong enough to fend off imposing predators such as wolves and bears.

Although defensive, Kangals are also gentle and friendly. But their size and bite force are said to be as strong as 743 PSI, making them very dangerous to anyone who threatens these gentle giants or anything else in their care and possession.

7. The Wolfdog

The first recorded wolfdog breeding in Britain dates back to 1766, when it is believed that a male wolf was mated with a domestic dog . A number of experts believe they can distinguish the difference between a wolf, a dog, and a wolfdog, but they have been proven wrong when presenting their evidence in court.

These breeds are known to be a mixture of domesticated dogs and wild wolves. These animals have protective instincts and can be very wild due to their unpredictable behavior, which probably results from breeding wild animals with common dogs. In some countries, it is forbidden to own and breed this dog.

6. Siberian Husky

The Siberian Husky is also considered one of the most dangerous dogs in the world. The Siberian Husky is a mid-sized dog breed. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. Its thick furred double coat, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings are much smaller than a very look-alike dog, the Alaskan Malamute.

Siberian Huskies were raised to be working dogs just like Alaskan Malamutes, which is why they are not very social! But with the proper approach and training, you can make them friendlier and calmer! Poor socialization and training will surely turn them into aggressive and dangerous dogs!

Most dangerous dogs in the world

5. Doberman Pinschers

The Doberman Pinscher or Doberman can be found in the United States, and Canada is a mid-sized domestic dog breed originally discovered around 1890 by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a tax collector from Germany.

Doberman Pinschers are known to be very intelligent, strong, and very sensitive to sound! They will sense danger and respond on their own! They will sense danger and react on their own! These dogs are naturally aggressive towards strangers, and their body size also plays a role in making them even more dangerous! If they are not properly trained and restrained, they can really cause some damage!

4. German Shepherds

German Shepherds are superior, hardworking, loyal, and highly intelligent dog breeds. They are tall and have a very lean, athletic build that makes them both very strong and agile. Although they are excellent herding dogs, German Shepherds make very good working dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind.

German Shepherds can react very quickly and are extremely focused on reducing danger. They can do lethal damage! The aggressive nature of GSDs can be somewhat mitigated with proper training, socialization, and affection! This way, you will have a loyal and very loving pet!

Can a German Shepherd be considered a good family dog?

German Shepherds can be extremely gentle companions and family protectors with proper training and socialization. It is an ideal breed for families with active households. The intelligence and protective behavior of this breed can make it a good choice for families with children, as long as the dog is properly trained. This dog is also considered one of the most dangerous dogs in the world.

3. Most dangerous dogs in the world – Rottweilers

The Rottweiler is a domestic dog breed that is considered medium to large or tall. The dogs were known in German as Rottweiler Metzgerhund, which means Rottweil butcher dogs, as they mainly breed to herd livestock and take carts loaded with meat to market.

Rottweilers are known to possess one of the worst tempers and are also considered as a dog not suitable for families, especially for families where the owner is an amateur , without a peaceful and assertive nature! They must be constantly trained and be placed on constant alert to avoid dangerous reactions!

2. The American Pit Bull Terrier – Most dangerous dogs in the world

The Pitbull is a terminology used in the United States for a type of dog originating from bulldogs and terriers, while in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the term is used as an abbreviation for the American Pit Bull Terrier breed. The term was first used in 1927.

Pit Bulls are vicious fighting dogs and will enthusiastically pursue their task until they are finished! They have a very strong jaw and bite and are known for not letting go of their bite easily! Therefore, they should be trained and socialized early to avoid unnecessarily dangerous situations!

American pit bulls are one of the most dangerous dogs and have been banned by many countries around the world. This medium-sized, intelligent, short-haired dog is one of the most dangerous dog breeds in the world. The main characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, self-confidence, and zest for life.

This breed is very suitable for performance events due to its high level of intelligence and willingness to work.

According to, dogs killed 433 Americans during the 13-year period from 2005 to 2017. Pit bulls contributed to 66% (284) of these deaths.

4 A Lousy Public Speaker

If you want to become president of the United States, you need to know how to give a speech. Getting in front of a camera and stirring up the nation are pretty much mandatory for this particular job. Even if you need a teleprompter or make up new words on the spot, you need to feel comfortable in front of a crowd. But that wasn&rsquot always the case. Take Thomas Jefferson for instance. He absolutely hated public speaking.

Rich, intelligent, and standing around 188 centimeters (6&rsquo2&Prime), Jefferson doesn&rsquot seem like he&rsquod be a shy guy, but the man was a wallflower. John Adams once said about Jefferson, &ldquoDuring the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.&rdquo Perhaps Jefferson was so silent because he was so modest. At first, he even insisted that Adams write the Declaration of Independence. Or perhaps he kept quiet because he was embarrassed of how he sounded. Some historians believe Jefferson had a high-pitched voice and often stuttered.

Whatever the reason, Jefferson was terrified of crowds, and that didn&rsquot do a lot for his career as a lawyer. In fact, Jefferson sometimes got so nervous that he&rsquod fake sickness to get out of giving a speech. Allegedly, Jefferson gave only two speeches during his entire presidency, both of them during his inauguration, but he was so quiet that newspapers had to print his words in advance so spectators could read along.

To get out of delivering his State of the Union addresses, Jefferson would write out a speech and have someone read it for him, a tradition that continued until Woodrow Wilson took office. Psychiatrists from Duke University claim that Jefferson suffered from social phobia, but whatever the cause, Jefferson was undoubtedly one of the quietest politicians to ever work in the White House.

Journalist Laurie Clarke has published a piece in the British Medical Journal about the censorship of science, and who these Big Tech "fact-checkers" really are.

Why has there been such an effort to hide information that threatens the accepted narrative we get from the mainstream? What is going on here? How is this legal, moral and ethical?

Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

The censorship of information is at an all time high, but do people really recognize the extent to which it has been and is being carried out? A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

Being an independent media outlet, Collective Evolution has experienced this censorship first hand. We’ve also been in touch with and witnessed many doctors and world renowned scientists be subjected to the same type of treatment from these social media organizations. Not long ago I wrote an article about Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a Harvard professor of medicine who has been having trouble with twitter. I did the same with Dr. Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence based medicine from Oxford and an emergency GP who wrote an article regarding the efficacy of facemasks in stopping the spread of COVID. His article was not removed, but a label was added to it by Facebook saying it was ‘fake information.’ There are many more examples.

Clarke’s article says, with regards to posts that have been removed and labelled, that,

“while a portion of that content is likely to be wilfully wrongheaded or vindictively misleading, the pandemic is littered with examples of scientific opinion that have been caught in the dragnet.”

This is true, take for example the ‘lab origins of COVID debate.’ Early on in the pandemic you were not even allowed to mention that COVID may have originated in a lab, and if you did, you were punished for doing so. Independent media platforms were demonetized and subjected to changes in algorithms. Now, all of a sudden, the mainstream media is discussing it as a legitimate possibility. It makes no sense.

Laurie Clarke outlines in her piece,

This underscores the difficulty of defining scientific truth, prompting the bigger question of whether social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube should be tasked with this at all…

“I think it’s quite dangerous for scientific content to be labelled as misinformation, just because of the way people might perceive that,” says Sander van der Linden, professor of social psychology in society at Cambridge University, UK. “Even though it might fit under a definition (of misinformation) in a very technical sense, I’m not sure if that’s the right way to describe it more generally because it could lead to greater politicisation of science, which is undesirable.”

This type of “politicization of science” is exactly what’s happened during this pandemic.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Kamran Abbas is a doctor, executive editor of the British Medical Journal, and the editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. (source)

An important point to get across is also the fact that these independent “fact checkers” are working with Facebook, who in turn is working with the government. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden offered his thoughts on the censorship we’ve been seeing during this pandemic in November of last year stating the following,

In secret, these companies had all agreed to work with the U.S. Government far beyond what the law required of them, and that’s what we’re seeing with this new censorship push is really a new direction in the same dynamic. These companies are not obligated by the law to do almost any of what they’re actually doing but they’re going above and beyond, to, in many cases, to increase the depth of their relationship (with the government) and the government’s willingness to avoid trying to regulate them in the context of their desired activities, which is ultimately to dominate the conversation and information space of global society in different ways…They’re trying to make you change your behaviour.

If you’re not comfortable letting the government determine the boundaries of appropriate political speech, why are you begging Mark Zuckerberg to do it?

I think the reality here is…it’s not really about freedom of speech, and it’s not really about protecting people from harm…I think what you see is the internet has become the de facto means of mass communication. That represents influence which represents power, and what we see is we see a whole number of different tribes basically squabbling to try to gain control over this instrument of power.

What we see is an increasing tendency to silence journalists who say things that are in the minority.

It makes you wonder, is this “fact-checking” actually about fact checking? Or is something else going on here?

Below is a breakdown from Clarke’s article illustrating how fact checking works and what the problem is with following the science. Since we have reported this many times over the last 5 years, we decided to let our readers hear it from someone else for a change as it’s truly quite vindicating to see more investigators coming to these conclusions.

How fact checking works

The past decade has seen an arms race between users who peddle disinformation (intentionally designed to mislead) or unwittingly share misinformation (which users don’t realise is false) and the social media platforms that find themselves charged with policing it, whether they want to or not.1

When The BMJ questioned Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (which is owned by Google) they all highlighted their efforts to remove potentially harmful content and to direct users towards authoritative sources of information on covid-19 and vaccines, including the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although their moderation policies differ slightly, the platforms generally remove or reduce the circulation of content that disputes information given by health authorities such as WHO and the CDC or spreads false health claims that are considered harmful, including incorrect information about the dangers of vaccines.

But the pandemic has seen a shifting patchwork of criteria employed by these companies to define the boundaries of misinformation. This has led to some striking U turns: at the beginning of the pandemic, posts saying that masks helped to prevent the spread of covid-19 were labelled “false” now it’s the opposite, reflecting the changing nature of the academic debate and official recommendations.

Twitter manages its fact checking internally. But Facebook and YouTube rely on partnerships with third party fact checkers, convened under the umbrella of the International Fact-Checking Network—a non-partisan body that certifies other fact checkers, run by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school in St Petersburg, Florida. Poynter’s top donors include the Charles Koch Institute (a public policy research organisation), the National Endowment for Democracy (a US government agency), and the Omidyar Network (a “philanthropic investment firm”), as well as Google and Facebook. Poynter also owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the high profile fact checker PolitiFact. The Poynter Institute declined The BMJ’s invitation to comment for this article.

For scientific and medical content the International Fact-Checking Network involves little known outfits such as SciCheck, Metafact, and Science Feedback. Health Feedback, a subsidiary of Science Feedback, handpicks scientists to deliver its verdict. Using this method, it labelled as “misleading” a Wall Street Journal opinion article2 predicting that the US would have herd immunity by April 2021, written by Marty Makary, professor of health policy and management at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This prompted the newspaper to issue a rebuttal headlined “Fact checking Facebook’s fact checkers,” arguing that the rating was “counter-opinion masquerading as fact checking.”3 Makary hadn’t presented his argument as a factual claim, the article said, but had made a projection based on his analysis of the evidence.

A spokesperson for Science Feedback tells The BMJ that, to verify claims, it selects scientists on the basis of “their expertise in the field of the claim/article.” They explain, “Science Feedback editors usually start by searching the relevant academic literature and identifying scientists who have authored articles on related topics or have the necessary expertise to assess the content.”

The organisation then either asks the selected scientists to weigh in directly or collects claims that they’ve made in the media or on social media to reach a verdict. In the case of Makary’s article it identified 20 relevant scientists and received feedback from three.

“Follow the science”

The contentious nature of these decisions is partly down to how social media platforms define the slippery concepts of misinformation versus disinformation. This decision relies on the idea of a scientific consensus. But some scientists say that this smothers heterogeneous opinions, problematically reinforcing a misconception that science is a monolith.

This is encapsulated by what’s become a pandemic slogan: “Follow the science.” David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, calls this “absolutely awful,” saying that behind closed doors scientists spend the whole time arguing and deeply disagreeing on some fairly fundamental things.

He says: “Science is not out in front telling you what to do it shouldn’t be. I view it much more as walking along beside you muttering to itself, making comments about what it’s seeing and making some tentative suggestions about what might happen if you take a particular path, but it’s not in charge.”

The term “misinformation” could itself contribute to a flattening of the scientific debate. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, has been criticised for his views on lockdown, which tack closely to his native Sweden’s more relaxed strategy.4 He says that scientists who voice unorthodox opinions during the pandemic are worried about facing “various forms of slander or censoring . . . they say certain things but not other things, because they feel that will be censored by Twitter or YouTube or Facebook.” This worry is compounded by the fear that it may affect grant funding and the ability to publish scientific papers, he tells The BMJ.

The binary idea that scientific assertions are either correct or incorrect has fed into the divisiveness that has characterised the pandemic. Samantha Vanderslott, a health sociologist at the University of Oxford, UK, told Nature, “Calling out fake stories can raise your profile.” In the same article Giovanni Zagni, director of the Italian fact checking website Facta, noted that “you can build a career” on the basis of becoming “a well respected voice that fights against bad information.”5

But this has fed a perverse incentive for scientists to label each other’s positions misinformation or disinformation.6 Van der Linden likens this to how the term “fake news” was weaponised by Donald Trump to silence his critics. He says, “I think you see a bit of the same with the term ‘misinformation,’ when there’s science that you don’t agree with and you label it as misinformation.”

Health Feedback’s website says that it won’t select scientists to verify claims if they’ve undermined their credibility by “propagating misinformation, whether intentionally or not.” In practice, this could create a Kafkaesque situation where scientists are precluded from offering their opinion as part of the fact checking process if they expressed an opinion that Facebook labelled misinformation. Strengthening the echo chamber effect is the fact that Health Feedback sometimes verifies claims by looking at what scientists have said on Twitter or in the media.

Scientific “truth”

Van der Linden says that it’s important for people to understand that in the scientific domain “there’s uncertainty, there’s debate, and it’s about the accumulation of insights over time and revising our opinions as we go along.” Healthy debate helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. Jevin West, associate professor in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that social media platforms should therefore be “extra careful when it comes to debates involving science.” He explains: “The institution of science has developed these norms and behaviour to be self-corrective. So, for [social media platforms] to step into that conversation, I think it’s problematic.”

Experts who spoke to The BMJ emphasised the near impossibility of distinguishing between a minority scientific opinion and an opinion that’s objectively incorrect (misinformation). Spiegelhalter says that this would constitute a difficult “legalistic judgment about what a reasonable scientific opinion would be . . . I’ve got my own criteria that I use to decide whether I think something is misleading, but I find it very difficult to codify.”

Other scientists worry that, if this approach to scientific misinformation outlives the pandemic, the scientific debate could become worryingly subject to commercial imperatives. Vinay Prasad, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, argued on the MedPage Today website: “The risk is that the myriad players in biomedicine, from large to small biopharmaceutical and [medical] device firms, will take their concerns to social media and journal companies. On a topic like cancer drugs, a tiny handful of folks critical of a new drug approval may be outnumbered 10:1 by key opinion leaders who work with the company.”7 Thus the majority who speak loudest, most visibly, and with the largest number online, may be judged “correct” by the public—and, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors.

Social media companies are still experimenting with the new raft of measures introduced since last year and may adapt their approach. Van der Linden says that the talks he’s had with Facebook have focused on how the platform could help foster an appreciation of how science works, “to actually direct people to content that educates them about the scientific process, rather than labelling something as true or false.”

This debate is playing out against a wider ideological struggle, where the ideal of “truth” is increasingly placed above “healthy debate.” Kulldorff says: “To remove things in general, I think is a bad idea. Because even if something is wrong, if you remove it there’s no opportunity to discuss it.” For instance, although he favours vaccination in general, people with fears or doubts about the vaccines used should not be silenced in online spaces, he says. “If we don’t have an open debate within science, then that will have enormous consequences for science and society.”

There are concerns that this approach could ultimately undermine trust in public health. In the US, says West, trust in the government and media is falling. He explains, “Science is still one of the more trusted institutions, but if you start tagging and shutting down conversation within science, to me that’s even worse than the actual posting of these individual articles.”

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