The Hound

The Hound
In human cultures throughout the ages, canines have
been friend and companion to mankind. The Celts are
no exception. In Celtic history, many _a legendary
character has had a canine as faithful guardian or
hunting companion, ranging from the diminutive
Scottish terrier to the great Irish Wolfhound. In some
stories, the hounds are supernatural creatures, such
as the Yell Hounds who accompany Herne in the Wild
Hunt. In others they are protectors of the household,
like the hound of Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, who at
the cost of his own life defended Llewellyn’s infant
son against a marauding wolf.
The hero Finn MacCumhal had two famous hounds,
Bran and Sceolan, who were always loyally at his
side. They were the children of the beautiful Turrean,
a woman who was either Finn’s sister or aunt.
Turrean was transformed into a hound by a jealous
faerie queen of the Sidhe. And, according to some, so
came into being the ?rst Irish Wolfhound. In one tale,
while hunting with Finn, Bran and Sceolan singled
out one deer within a large herd, sensing that it was
of human origin. This deer really was the woman
Sadhb, who when returned to her original beauty in
human form became the wife of Finn and mother to
Oisin. Perhaps the hounds’ own enchanted heritage
enabled them to detect such a kindred spirit, like
their own mother, and thus they refrained from
savaging her. Smart, loyal, faithful, companionable:
the hound is an important member of every family,
and remains man’s (and woman’s!) best friend.
“My life is a waste, and my household like a desert, with
the loss of my hound! He guarded my life and my honour…
a valued servant, my hound, taken from me. He was shield
and shelter for our goods and herds. He guarded all our
beasts, at home or out in the ?elds.” (Culann’s lament for
his hound, from The Tain, translated by Thomas Kinsella
from the Irish epic Téin B6 Cuailnge) ‘
“The Celts were well kIlOW!l for breeding exceptional
hunting dogs of intelligence and skill, and their hounds
were a favorite trade with the Romans, who valued them
greatly.” (Jen Delyth, Celtic Folk Soul, p. 132)