2014: Large Dog Skeleton Discovered Under Church

In early 2014, archaelogical group DigVentures discovered the skeleton of a dog in a shallow grave in the ruins of Leiston Abbey, Suffolk, England. News coverage of the the fact, released by the Daily Mail in May 2014, stressed that the dog was seven feet tall and that it might date from the time of the famous Black Dog attack at Bungay Church in 1577: to put it bluntly, the Daily Mail's article was titled "Is this the skeleton of legendary devil dog Black Shuck?"

Skeleton of Large DogThe dog skeleton found in Leiston Abbey. [Larger Version Here.]

        A more careful read of the article shows that it was estimated that the dog would be seven feet tall if standing on its hind legs... and the DigVentures website further states the dog found at Leiston had a measured shoulder height of 72 centimeters, or about 28.5 inches. For comparison, Zeus, the world's largest dog in 2014 stood 7'3" on his hind legs. However, Zeus' record was based on his shoulder height measured from the floor when on all fours, a more natural stance for a dog; and, while Zeus measured 44" at his shoulder, the dog excavated at Leiston Abbey only measures around 28.5" at its shoulder. So it was an average size for a large dog... instead of having a shoulder height of seven feet tall, as implied by the Daily Mail article.

        Further, there is no evidence to attach the skeleton in any way to the Bungay incident other than it's a dog and Bungay is less than seven miles away. DigVentures' own statement on the matter adds in that the animal was elderly when it died, with worn teeth and osteoarthistis; and the dog was carefully laid into the grave, around the end of the 18th century (which is about 300 years too late to be Black Shuck)... so the dog has high probability of being a valued working dog or family pet, end of story. [Click Here to Visit DigVentures' Page.]

        So the Daily Mail "report" only has value in two ways: it helped fill an otherwise slow news day, and gives lots of websites another spectacular -- but false -- story to tell.

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