Did You Know?

Do you know where the term “dog says of summer” originated? Sam and Elsa here. When mom said we could do a post about the Dog Days of Summer, it set our tails-a-waggin’. Something about dogs?…oh heck yes! Put us in, coach.

Follow the belt of Orion to find Sam and Elsa’s Star Sirius. Credit: Starry Night Software

Typically those hot, sultry days in summer are referred to as “dog days” or “dog days of summer.” Visible from anywhere on Earth, Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major otherwise known as the Greater Dog. Dog? Hmm, why they didn’t just call it Sam and Elsa’s star is still a mystery to us. Perhaps it’s due in part to the ancient history we learned. Right now you see ‘our star’ as it ascends in the east before dawn on late summer mornings. The simple answer is because the hottest/most humid days of summer are associated with Sirius (aka the “Dog Star”) because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major.

Now for some astronomic history…first from the Egyptians. The period following the heliacal rise (that period of less than a year when it had not been visible) of Sirius when the constellation becomes visible just above the eastern horizon before sunrise generally arrives around July 19th and ends around the last week of August. This timeframe roughly corresponded with the annual flooding of the Nile River.

Not to be outdone on all things Sirius, ancient Romans believed it radiated extra heat toward the Earth. During the summer when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun, they were convinced the added, additional heat to the Sun’s heat caused hotter summer temperatures.

For the ancient Romans, the dog days of summer period was from about July 24 to around August 24. Over time, the constellations have drifted somewhat and today, The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the dog days of summer to be from July 3 until August 11.

Although “dog days” are usually the hottest of the summer, they really don’t have anything to do with either dogs or the star Sirius. Actually it is Earth’s tilt that explains why these days tend to be the hottest during summer.

The Earth’s tilt this time of year causes the sun’s light to hit the Northern Hemisphere at a more direct angle and, accordingly for a longer period of time throughout the day. This means longer, hotter days during the summer. While Sirius is the brightest proper star in the night sky, it still is 8.7 light-years (8.23×1013 km) away and effectively has no effect on Earth’s weather or temperature.

Yet the effects of summer heat and rainfall patterns are real and variations occur by latitude and location according to many factors. Although London is farther north, Calgary has a milder climate from the presence of the sea and the warm Gulf Stream current. One medical institution has reported a connection between Finland’s dog days and an increased risk of infection in deep surgery wounds, though that research is unverified.

So there you have it as to some of the why’s and the what for’s about the dog days of summer. All that  abbreviated history aside, us Knuckleheads tend to be lazy during these pizza-oven hot days (mid 90’s for the past few days). We enjoy early morning walks, and laze about working on our napping form as demonstrated by Sunday’s ‘howliday,’ National Dog Day.  Mostly we are  over these dog days and are excitedly awaiting for Indian Summer to arrive. How have your dog days been?

Live, love, bark! 🐾

49 thoughts on “Did You Know?

  1. I learned something from this post! Apparently, there are actually still stars in the sky! I thought someone must have turned them all off in the 90’s or something, because I sure remember seeing the stars all the time when I was a kid.

    1. With light pollution of a big city, I know what you mean though I still don’t see a dog shape up there.

  2. It’s crazy how you guys are so hot and we’ve stayed relatively comfortable. Yes, our temps have reached the mid 90s on some days, but we’ve had days where it topped at mid 80s too. And, our oak trees keep the back yard about 10 degrees cooler most of the time.

    I love the astronomy lesson!!

    1. Big trees are a true godsend when it’s hot for lower temperatures (and just as terrific providing winter protection against blowing snow). Living in a high mountain desert, the hot temps are to be expected. It’s just feels worse because we’ve had such little rain.

      I always wondered why they were called dog days of summer, it was fun finding out.
      P.S. How’s Ducky doing?

  3. Well, thank you for the lesson – we learned a lot. We do think we are ready for the dog days of summer to move along. How about some dog days of winter (with snow , of course)?

    Woos – Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  4. I also wonder where they get the idea that certain groupings of stars look like dogs.. I can’t see ’em! However, I can totally appreciate the info you’ve sent my way. Feels like those dog-days lasted a lot longer this summer!

    1. I’d be up the proverbial creek if I had to navigate by star. I never see what they say I should either. Perhaps I’m just not very imaginative.

  5. Sam and Elsa you are some very smart dogs! Thanks for the interesting meaning behind a phrase that I have used so much! This summer though I have used the phrase, “raining cats and dogs” a lot more often!
    You all deserve a treat! 🙂

    1. You had us at ‘treat!’ Oh mom…..!!!

      We would certainly welcome cats and dogs around our Ranch.

  6. I never understood the constellation as they don’t look like a dog, or bear, or belt or anything but stars to me! That was very interesting Monika, thanks for the information! As to weather, I bought mums last week, early because A. they were 80% off and B. I want Fall to come on in!
    LeeAnna

    1. Mums are a good choice in the garden right now. They add some nice color after a scorcher summer and much in the garden is gasping its last blooming breath.

  7. Our “dog days” are so confused this end. They come. They go. And in a week or two they’re back. It was interesting to learn the history behind the expression. I didn’t know where it came from. 🙂 (p.s. of course “dog” caught my attention)

    1. Most of our summer have been dog days. There have only been a few that weren’t pizza oven hot. And less with any moisture. I so hope for an El Niño winter…we need the moisture.

  8. Great intel Sam and Elsa. Thanks for the schooling…. As far as my dog days they have not been good. Why you ask? Well because in spite of the astrological history you’ve brought to my attention the Dog Days of Summer for me have always been about baseball. August baseball after 5 months of competition and grinding out the last 50 or so games to the finish line and into the playoffs. Alas, this year my beloved Giants were bruised and battered throughout the season and have been more lamb-like than tough old tough old Dawgs. But As they say in The constellations and around the ball park,”we’ll get ‘em next year!”

    1. We’re so over the dogs days but are looking forward to Indian Summer when the days are just warm, not blistering hot. ☺️

      1. Only 25 days until the official arrival of autumn, so hopefully not too much longer. 🤞🏼

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