Sirius Dog Days of Summer

What Does it Mean?

The phrase “Dog Days of Summer” is usually used in reference to those hot sultry days of summer. Something we in the Northern hemisphere long for all year, only to complain about it when it finally arrives. 

Being a dog company we’re always curious about terms or phrases involving dogs. We did a bit of digging and found some interesting things regarding the Dog Days of Summer.

Thousands of Years-Worth of Legends

The term was initially translated from Latin to English 500 years ago - those are human years, not dog years.  Sirius is a star in the constellation Canis Major, otherwise known as “Greater Dog”.  During the Dog Days of Summer, the constellation is closer to the Earth than any other time of the year.  It is one of the brightest stars in the sky and with that comes thousands of years-worth of legend and folklore.  

Ancient Greeks and Romans knew when the dog star Sirius was brightest in the sky, the hottest days of summer were upon them.  They referred to these days as the “diēs caniculārēs", which translates to “dog days”.  This was also reinforced by Sirius rising shortly before the sun rose, almost rising with the sun.

In ancient China, the star was known as the heavenly wolf, while in ancient Iraq it was known as the “dog that leads”. 

Interestingly, many separate ancient cultures from around the world independently associated the Sirius star with a dog or a wolf.  To the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians, the Sirius star was Sacred and often celebrated with feasts.

In North America, many indigenous cultures associate Sirius and Canis Major with dogs or wolves.  The Seri and Tohono O’odham tribes refer to the Sirius constellation as a “dog that follows mountain sheep”.  The Cherokee of the southern US combined Sirius with Antares, a star in the Scorpio constellation, to form a dog-star guardian of the “Path of Souls”.  The Alaskan Inuit in the Bering Strait call it the “moon dog”.

When are the Dog Days?

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this year the Dog Days of summer will take place from July 3 to August 11, in North America. 

As time goes on and things change, Sirius and Canis Major will change with it.  In roughly 13,000 years, Sirius will rise with the sun during winter.  But until then we will still have our Sirius Dog Days of Summer.

Add to that the fact that 2018 is the year of the dog in Chinese astrology and you have double dogma!

Enjoy this year’s wonderfully eclectic dog folklore season!


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