August 19, 2014

11 Facts About the “Dog Days” of August



 As I sit here in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, on August 12, 2014, preparing this post it doesn’t seem like the Dog Days have arrived yet—one night this week the high is to be 49 degrees. On Saturday morning, August 16,  the temperature was 48 degrees.  Here are some questions on the month’s reputation:


  1.  Why did the ancient Egyptians refer to the star Sirius as the “Dog Star?”
  2. Name a notable characteristic of Sirius, the Dog Star.
  3. What did the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Romans blame Sirius’s conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. rising up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) for?
  4. Why is Sirius, the Dog Star, connected to the sultry days of August?
  5. What did the Romans call the Dog Days?
  6. Why did the Greeks refer to the star Sirius as the Dog Star?
  7. How did the Greeks and Romans describe the Dog Days, generally talking about the sultry month of August?****
  8. When did the term “Dog Days” come into use in the English language?
  9. The downtown Salem Dog Days of Summer event scheduled August 6, 2014, were objected to by some persons for what reason?
  10. What event coincides with the Dog Days of August?


Historically, why were the Dog Days considered bad?


  1. It was named after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.**
  2. It is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog,)*
  3. Adding its heat to the heat from the Sun… the conjunction coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot, so they called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer.”**
  4. …astronomers in Egypt and Greece and Rome and that whole Mediterranean area in ancient times noticed that in the middle of the summer, when it was hottest, that star would rise at just about the same time as the sun. It would be visible just before dawn.***
  5. Dies caniculares*
  6. It was part of the constellation Canis Major, which means the big dog. It was named that because it’s supposedly one of the dogs following the constellation Orion, who is the hunter.***
  7. …as an evil time “when the sea boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and man became hysterical.”
  8. In the generation before Shakespeare. ***
  9. The Willamette Humane Society planned to have dog adoption kennels set out in the Equitable Center plaza this date, but with temperatures forecast to reach 90 degrees or higher some downtown shop owners and others objected to having the event planned for August—typically the hottest month of the year—reasoning that the event takes place during the hottest part of the day and that sidewalks might be too hot for sensitive dogs paws. ****
  10.  …large webs, all spun (at Powder Mill in Southwestern PA) by Black and Yellow Argiope spiders—webs notable for their composition, each seeming to have its own unique design. Some held tiny insects, other webs, web strands, naked.***** When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”****


People believed it was the time most likely for dogs to go mad, partly…because dogs would pant more in the heat.

People connected the dog days with many bad things such as fevers, illnesses.

(People thought that) since there was a dog star up in the sky, surely it had some sort of influence on real dogs***







1 Comment »

  1. Carolyn, good morning! Its been a nice summer in SE Oklahoma. but that’s about to change…
    Dog Days of Summer, I didn’t know too much about why we call these days in late August, dog days.
    Charlie didn’t know… 🙂 all he wants to know is when is it time to eat and go for a walk!

    Comment by merry101 — August 20, 2014 @ 9:04 am | Reply

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