Dog days

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This article is about the weather-related phrase. For other uses, see Dog Days (disambiguation).

The expression "dog days" refers to the hot, sultry days of summer, originally in areas around the Mediterranean Sea, and as the expression fit, to other areas, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.

The coincidence of very warm temperatures in the early civilizations in North Africa and the Near East with the rising, at sunrise (i.e., the heliacal rising), of Orion's dog, the dog star Sirius, led to the association of this phrase with these conditions, an association that traces to the Egyptians and appears in the ancient written poetic and other records of the Greeks (e.g., Hesiod, Aratus, and Homer in The Iliad) and the later Romans.

The expression is used in prose literature, poetry, and song and album titles.

General description[edit]

The dog days are the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the Northern summer.[a][1] Additionally, they also refer to promotions created by American baseball ballparks to boost ticket sales during mid-afternoon games. The American weather and farming annual, The Old Farmer's Almanac, explains that "[t]he phrase 'Dog Days' conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer," coinciding with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the dog star, in the constellation Canis Major.[b][2][3]:19 While the correlation between the hottest and most humid weather of the year with this specific calendar period has not survived the broadening of weather understanding and communications to global, the correlation of the rising of Sirius with extreme heat has been sufficient in enough climes in the Northern Hemisphere such that the association of dog days "with hot, sultry weather was made for all time."[2]

Origin of name[edit]

Jay Holberg observes that the Greek poets Hesiod (ca. 750-650 BCE) and Aratus (ca. 310–240 BCE) refer in their writings to "the heat of late summer that the Greeks believed was actually brought on by the appearance of Sirius," a star in the constellation that the later Romans and we today refer to as Canis Major, literally the "greater dog" constellation.[3]:15f He notes,

The Greeks possessed an elaborate lore associated with Sirius… [Its] first appearance… in the morning skies during the final days of July and early August indicated the arrival of the sweltering heat of late summer… [and was] associated with heat, fire, and even fevers.[3]:16

Homer, in the Iliad, references the association of "Orion's dog" (Sirius) with oncoming heat, fevers and evil, in describing the approach of Achilles toward Troy:

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.[4]

Alternatively, this is rendered:

like to the star that cometh forth at harvest-time,
and brightly do his rays shine amid the host of stars in the darkness of night,
the star that men call by name the Dog of Orion. Brightest of all is he,
yet withal is he a sign of evil, and bringeth much fever upon wretched mortals.[5]

Span of the days[edit]

In Anglo-Saxon times, the Dog Days ran from 14 July ("Dies caniculares incipiuntur"[c]) to 5 September ("Dies caniculares finiuntur"[d]).[6]

The Old Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional period of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the ancient heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. These are the days of the year with the least rainfall in the Northern Hemisphere.[2]

The Book of Common Prayer of 1559 states "Dog Days beg." on July 6 and "Dog days end*" on August 16 (in the Gregorian calendar), though the latter is marked "* Apparently an error".[7]


The dog days continued through the early 19th century to be perceived as foreboding a time of evil, wherein "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies," as described by Brady in his Clavis Calendaria (1813).[8]

In recent years, the "dog days" and "dog days of summer" have taken on new connotations. In business, where "July is typically one of the quietest months of the year for stock trading," the traditional meanings of heat and disease have been extended to business inactivity, through expressions like "dog days of summer for stock trading."[9]

The term periodically makes its way into various appellations, for instance of the Danish adventurer Jørgen Jürgensen, who is referred to by Icelanders as "Jörundur hundadagakonungur" ("Jørgen the Dog-Days King"), since he proclaimed himself their lord protector for some months in 1809.[10]

Though it is as yet uncited or further substantiated, a pair of primary sources from a Finnish medical institution report that these warmest summer days are associated with increased risk of deep surgery wound or organ infection.[11][12]

Popular references[edit]

Allusions to dog days appear in serious non-fiction work. In an early 20th century historical tome on the religious life of Rome, J. B. Carter writes of "the oppression of the dog-days,—that peculiarly discouraging heat, which only a Roman summer day brings forth."[13]

In literature, mentions of dog days include John Webster's 1613 stage play, The Duchess of Malfi, where Bosola states "blackbirds fatten best in hard weather: why not I in these dog days?".[14]

The expression is vividly employed by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol (1843):

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! … The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait… A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.[15][16]

Richard Adams also uses it to describe the English summer in Watership Down:

Now came the dog days - day after day of hot, still summer, when for hours at a time light seemed the only thing that moved; the sky-sun, clouds and breeze-awake above the drowsing downs.[17]

In the short story "The Bar Sinister" (1903) by Richard Harding Davis, the main character, a street dog, suggests that "when the hot days come... they might remember that those are the dog days, and leave a little water outside… like they do for the horses."[18] The prologue of the children's novel Tuck Everlasting (1975), set in a first week of August, speaks of "strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after."[19]

The phrase appears in modern poetry, as in the opening of the 1909 poem "Queens" by J. M. Synge: "Seven dog-days we let pass / Naming Queens in Glenmacnass…".[20]

The expression has found its way into film and popular music, for instance, in the titles of Sidney Lumet's 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon,[21] of Ulrich Seidl's 2001 film Hundstage (Dog Days),[22] both for their seasonal settings, and in the 2012 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, about the activities of a teenage boy during summer holiday.[23] Musical examples include the song title "Dog Days Are Over" from the debut album Lungs (2009) of the British band Florence and the Machine.[24] Dutch goth-rockers Within Temptation feature a song called Dog Days on their album Hydra from 2013. Fear factory also covered Head of David's Dog Day Sunrise on their 1995 Demaufacture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kelly and Thompson write: Traditionally running from July 3 to August 11, the dog days have long been associated with uncomfortable heat, searing sun, ... sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, disease, and at one time, mad dogs. … / Ancient Romans noticed that the really hot days came along with the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, in the Canis Major constellation. Since [Sirius is] the brightest star in the heavens, they reasoned that it somehow contributed to the sun's heat. Being 8.7 light-years away from Earth and 50 trillion miles distant, Sirius has no effect whatsoever on our temperature. … Pliny (A.D. 23-79) noted in his Natural History that there was an increase in attacks by dogs in July and August. His recommended preventative was to feed the dogs [with] chicken droppings. … / A 1729 British publication, The Husbandman's Practice, suggested men should 'abstain all this time from women' and 'take heed of feeding violently.' It also cautioned, 'The Heat of the Sun is so violent that Men's bodies at Midnight sweat as at Midday: and if they be hurt, they be more sick than at any other time, yea very near Dead.' / Because the stars gradually shift their positions relative to the sun, Sirius today rises several weeks later than in Roman times. Another 10,000 years and the Dog Star will rise in the middle of winter. … / Since… summer is a slow time on Wall Street, some people refer to "dog days" in the financial sense too. … Some calendars, like that in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, list the 'Dog Daies' as running from July 6 to August 17, which may be why the feast of St. Roch, the patron saint of dogs, falls on August 16.[1]
  2. ^ The Old Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days: the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile's flooding, so they used the star as a 'watchdog' for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time: 'Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain.'[2]
  3. ^ "The dog days begin"
  4. ^ "The dog days end"


  1. ^ a b Kelly, Bethanne & John Milliken Thompson (2009). An Uncommon History of Common Things. Washington, DC, USA: National Geographic Books. p. 59. ISBN 1426204205. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Harris, Paul; Jorgensen, Tom, eds. (2015). "Calendar for July 3rd, 2015: Dog Days Begin". Dublin, NH, USA: The Old Farmers Almanac (Yankee Publishing). Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Jay B. Holberg, 2007, Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky [Springer Praxis Books], Berlin, DEU: Springer Science & Business, ISBN 0387489428, see [1], accessed 29 July 2015.
  4. ^ Homer (1997) [c 8th c. BCE]. The Iliad. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis, IN, USA: Hackett. ISBN 9780872203525.  22:33–37.
  5. ^ Homer (1924) [c 8th c. BCE]. The Iliad. Trans. A.T. Murray. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, USA. Retrieved 28 July 20152 vols. Also published London, LND, GBR:William Heinemann. 
  6. ^ Chardonnens, László Sándor (2007). Anglo-Saxon Prognostics, 900-1100: Study and Texts. BRILL. p. 289. ISBN 90-04-15829-4. 6/7 Cambridge, Trinity College, R. 15. 32, pp. 15-26
    <14 July> Dies caniculares incipiuntur.
    <5 Sept> Dies caniculares finiuntur.
  7. ^ "The Table and Kalendar". The Book of Common Prayer - 1559. Society of Archbishop Justus. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  8. ^ Brady, John (1813). Clavis Calendaria: Or, A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar; Illustrated with Ecclesiastical, Historical, and Classical Anecdotes. author. p. 84. 
  9. ^ Dan Strumpf, 2014, "Markets: Dog days of summer for stock trading," The Wall Street Journal (online), August 1, 2014, see [2], accessed 29 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Hver var Jörundur hundadagakonungur og hvað var hann að gera á Íslandi?" (in Icelandic). Vísindavefurinn. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  11. ^ Tukiainen, E.; D. Pipping; E. Kolho & V. Koljonen (2009) "‘Dog days’ surgical site infections in a Finnish trauma hospital during 2002–2005," Journal of Hospital Infection 71(3), March 2009, pp. 290–291, DOI 10.1016/j.jhin.2008.11.010, PMID 19157647, see [3][permanent dead link], accessed 29 July 2015.
  12. ^ Koljonen, V.; E. Tukiainen; D. Pipping; & E. Kolho (2009) "‘Infektiot yleisempiä mätäkuussa" ["Surgical site infections at Töölö hospital and the dog days myth"], Duodecim 125(13), March 2009, pp. 1415-1420, PMID 19678497, see [4] or [5], Finnish with English abstract, accessed 29 July 2015. [Literal title translation, "Infections common in a 'rotten month' (dog days)".]
  13. ^ Jesse Benedict Carter, 1911, The Religious Life of Ancient Rome: A Study in the Development of Religious Consciousness, from the Foundation of the City Until the Death of Gregory the Great, p. 247, New York, NY, USA:Houghton Mifflin, see [6], accessed 28 July 2015.
  14. ^ Webster, John, 1914 [1613], The Duchess of Malfi, Act 1, Sc. 1, Line 34 (The Harvard Classics, Vol. XLVII, Part 4, Charles W. Elliot, Ed.), New York, NY, USA: P.F. Collier & Son, Print and online, see "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2015-07-30. , accessed 29 July 2015.
  15. ^ Charles Dickens, 1858, A Christmas Carol, p. 2, London, GBR:Bradbury & Evans, see [7], accessed 28 July 2015.
  16. ^ Charles Dickens, 1993 [1858], A Christmas Carol [unabridged, illustrated and revised reprint], p. 12, Ware, HRT, GBR:Wordsworth Editions Ltd, ISBN 1-853-26121-1, see [8], accessed 28 July 2015.
  17. ^ Adams, Richard (1972). Watership Down. p. 53. ISBN 0-901720-31-3. , accessed 5/4/2016,
  18. ^ Staudohar, Paul D. (2007). The Best Dog Stories. Chicago Review Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-55652-667-1. 
  19. ^ Babbitt, Natalie (17 September 2010). Tuck Everlasting. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR). p. 3. ISBN 978-0-374-70644-9. 
  20. ^ J. M. Synge, 1909, "Queens," line 1, in Poems and translations, Dundrum, DUB, IRL:Cuala Press, see [9] or [10], accessed 29 July 2015.
  21. ^ Hoberman, J. (15 October 2015). "Lumet's 'Dog Day Afternoon': Hot Crime, Summer in the City". New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  22. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (17 November 2001). "Dog Days". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  23. ^ Bradshaw, Peter. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  24. ^ Barrett, Pete. "Florence and the Machine - Dog Days Are Over Single Review". Contact Music. Retrieved 2 December 2015.