The Gytrash, also known as Guytrash or Trash, is a spectral, shapeshifting animal known in northern England to haunt lonely roads and sometimes lead people astray, while at other times helping and protecting travellers.
In some parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire the Gytrash was known as the Shagfoal.
The Gytrash can appear in the shape of a horse, a mule, or as a giant Black Dog with eyes that glowed like burning coals. In this form the beast was believed to be purely malevolent, bringing bad fortune with it and sometimes attacking the people it followed. In other stories seeing the creature is an omen of impending death or bad luck.
The Gytrash is usually a feared creature, due to its association with death, but it can also be benevolent, guiding lost travelers to the right road. Its feet make a distinctive squelching, wet sound when it walks, which gives it its name.
The most notable appearance of the Gytrash in fiction is in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, in which the title character mistakes Rochester's dog Pilot for the monster.
The Gytrash, depicted as an extremely fierce shaggy white dog, is mentioned in the Harry Potter series.
- As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.
- It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of Bessie's Gytrash -- a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge head [...], with strange pretercanine eyes [...]. The horse followed, -- a tall steed [...]. Nothing ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone [...].
-Excerpt from 'Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Chapter XII'