It may be “Wordless Wednesday” around Blogville, but here at the Ranch where we tend to do things against the grain, we’re pitching a “Did You Know” post that’s anything but wordless. What are we yammering about today? We’re talking about the Dog Days of Summer.
What are the Dog Days of Summer? In the Northern Hemisphere, the Dog Days of Summer coincide with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius, at the same time as hot and sultry weather does this time of year. So let’s take a look at some of the historical background surrounding this annual phenomena.
Traditionally the term “Dog Days” refers to the period of particularly hot and humid weather occurring during the summer months of July and August in the Northern Hemisphere from July 3 through August 11.
In ancient Greece and Roman times, the Dog Days were thought be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat. Today however, we recognize it as the time of the year when temperatures and humidity peak.
So why are they called the “Dog Days” of Summer? This period of sweltering weather coincides with the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star. You may recall that the constellation Canis Majoris—known as the “Greater Dog” (aka Alpha Canis Majoris) and that apart from our Sun, Sirius is the brightest star in the sky.
Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans believed the early morning rising of Sirius in mid-to-late summer actually contributed to the extreme weather of the season. In other words, the “combined heat” of super-bright Sirius with the sun was thought to be the cause of sweltering summertime temperatures. Did you know the name “Sirius” comes from the Ancient Greek-seírios, and means “scorching?”
Ancient Egyptians believed the star was a “watchdog” for the coinciding fact of the Nile’s flooding season.
We now know Sirius’ appearance does not actually affect weather during this time period, but its appearance during the hottest part of summer ensures that the lore surrounding this star continues to live on.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “old-timers believed that rainfall on the Dog Days was a bad omen, as foretold in this verse:”
Dog Days bright and clear
Indicate a happy year;
But when accompanied by rain,
For better times, our hopes are vain.
The organization made this further comment in the early 1800’s:
“Dog Days are approaching; you must, therefore, make both hay and haste while the Sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him.”
Both Elsa and Norman take great exception to the “unsteady, crazy” reference.
Whether you believe in ancient folklore or follow science, no one can deny this is definitely the hottest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
An interesting 2009 Finnish study tested the hypothesis that rates of infections are higher during the Dog Days. The authors concluded, “This study was conducted in order to challenge the myth that the rate of infections is higher during the dog days. To our surprise, the myth was found to be true.” Go figure, Norman and I thought pet therapy helped peeps feel better.
Speaking of Norman, he knows exactly how to cope with the Dog Days of Summer and advises everyone to stay well hydrated. As you look up in the early morning skies at Sirius, just remember there are ‘only’ 71 days until the official arrival of autumn.
Live, love, bark! 🐾