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 the 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 and Aratus) and the later Romans (including Homer, in The Iliad). In such geographical areas as these, and others globally with similar latitude and climate, the dog days of summer are most commonly experienced in the months of July and August, which typically exhibit among the hottest of summer temperatures. In the Southern Hemisphere, the same period typically occurs in February and March, in the midst of the austral summer.[citation needed]

General description[edit]

As Paul Harris and Tom Jorgensen of the American weather and farming annual, The Old Farmer's Almanac, explain, "[t]he phrase 'Dog Days' conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer," coinciding with the rising, at sunrise (i.e., the heliacal rising), of Sirius, the dog star,[1] in the constellation Canis Major.[2]: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 expression dog days "with hot, sultry weather was made for all time."[1]

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.[2]: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."[2]: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.[3]

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.[4]

Holberg goes on to explain that the Romans referred to this period as diēs caniculārēs ("days of the dog star"), as canicula is the Latin word for "dog".[2]:20[citation needed]

Span of the days[edit]

In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days ran from July 24 through August 24, or, alternatively, from July 23 through August 23.[citation needed] In many European cultures (German, French, Italian) this period is still said to be the time of the Dog Days.[citation needed]

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.[dubious ]

According to the 1552 edition of the The Book of Common Prayer, the "Dog Daies" begin July 6 and end August 17. But this edition, the 2nd book of Edward VI, was never used extensively nor adopted by the Convocation of the Church of England.[citation needed] The lectionary of 1559 edition of the Book of Common Prayer indicates: "Naonae. Dog days begin" with the readings for July 7 and end August 18. But this is noted as a misprint[5][original research?][better source needed] and the readings for September 5 indicate: "Naonae. Dog days end". This corresponds very closely to the lectionary of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible (also called the Authorized version of the Bible) which indicates the Dog Days beginning on July 6 and ending on September 5.[original research?] A recent reprint of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer contains no reference to the Dog Days. Given that the traditional period of the Dog Days is forty days (a scripturally significant number), the error could be read as being September 5, as the time between July and August does correspond to that number of days and would also be in line with the common European tradition.[original research?] The Book of Common Prayer would have provided the official liturgical calendar for Jamestown, Virginia, from 1607 so it may be assumed that the Dog Days likely have been known in the New World at least since that time.[original research?]

Due to introduction of the modern Gregorian Calendar, 10 days must be added to each of the 16th and 17th-century dates referenced above for them to correlate correctly with modern-day dates as concerns astronomical observations and climate; therefore, the Dog Days would begin on July 16 and end on August 24.[original research?]


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).[6][full citation needed][verification needed]

In recent years, the "dog days" and "dog days of summer" have taken on new connotations. In many countries, mainly those speaking Romance languages, the word canicula and its cognates are used to refer to summer school and work holidays.[citation needed] 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."[7]

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.[citation needed]

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.[8][9]

Popular references[edit]

Allusions to the title term 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."[10]

In literature, mentions of dog days include John Webster's stage play, The Duchess of Malfi (1613), where Bosola states "blackbirds fatten best in hard weather: why not I in these dog days?".[11] In addition, 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."[12][13]

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."[citation needed] 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."[citation needed] As well, the phrase appears in modern poetry, for instance in the opening of the poem "Queens" (1909) by J. M. Synge: "Seven dog-days we let pass / Naming Queens in Glenmacnass…".[14]

The expression has also found its way into a variety of references in film and popular music, for instance, in the titles of the Sidney Lumet film Dog Day Afternoon (1975),[citation needed] of the film from Austrian director Ulrich Seidl, Hundstage (Dog Days, 2001), both for their seasonal settings, and in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" (2012), about the activities of a teenage boy during summer holiday;[citation needed] musical examples include the song title "Dog Days Are Over" from the debut album Lungs (2009) of the British band Florence and the Machine.[citation needed]

Finally, the expression is used in a variety of modern video game and related digital products, including Kane & Lynch: Dog Days,[citation needed] and Batman: Arkham City, where the fictional character Calendar Man commits atrocities to "celebrate the dog days of summer."[this quote needs a citation]


  1. ^ a b 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d 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.
  3. ^ Homer (1997) [c 8th c. BCE]. The Iliad. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis, IN, USA: Hackett. ISBN 9780872203525.  22:33–37.
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Booty, John (1976). The Book of Common Prayer, The Elizabethan Prayer Book. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC: Folger Books. pp. 42–44. ISBN 978-0-918016-58-4. 
  6. ^ Brady, J: "Clavis Calendaria", vol. II, page 89. Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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], accessed 29 July 2015.
  9. ^ 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)".]
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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 [7], accessed 29 July 2015.
  12. ^ Charles Dickens, 1858, A Christmas Carol, p. 2, London, GBR:Bradbury & Evans, see [8], accessed 28 July 2015.
  13. ^ Charles Dickens, 1993 [1858], A Christmas Carol [unabridged, illustrated and revised reprint], p. 12, Ware, HRT, GBR:Wordsworth Editions Ltd, ISBN 1853261211, see [9], accessed 28 July 2015.
  14. ^ J. M. Synge, 1909, "Queens," line 1, in Poems and translations, Dundrum, DUB, IRL:Cuala Press, see [10] or [11], accessed 29 July 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.  Quote: "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 rapid 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."

  • 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.  Quote: "The phrase 'Dog Days' conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer. 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.'"

See also[edit]

Outside links[edit]

  • Weather Wisdom: The Dog Days of Summer (streaming video). Featuring Catherine Boeckmann; Doug Stack, producer; Paul Harris and Tom Jorgensen, cinematography and editing (running time 0:54). Dublin, NH, USA: The Old Farmers Almanac (Yankee Publishing). 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2015. Hi, I'm Catherine for The Old Farmers Almanac. This is 'Weather Wit and Wisdom' for August. One of our readers asked, 'Why are the hot humid days of August called "the dog days of summer"?' The phrase 'Dog Days' conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer, 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot weather was made for all time. We end with this proverb: 'Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain' Thanks for joining us. For your weather forecast, go to