What are the dog days of summer?

It feels like we're constantly under heat and air quality advisories these days. Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer! What an odd expression. Did you ever wonder where it came from?

"What are the 'dog days' of summer?

The 'dog days' of summer comprise a period of extremely hot, humid, and sultry weather that traditionally occurs in the northern hemisphere in July and August (traditionally, the days run from July 3 through August 11). The term comes from the dog star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major. At this time of year, Sirius, the brightest visible star in the sky, rises in the east at the same time as the Sun. Ancient Egyptians believed that the heat of this brilliant star added to the Sun's heat to create hotter weather. Sirius was blamed for everything from the withering droughts to sickness to the discomfort that occurred during this time.

Hile, Kevin. "Weather fundamentals." The Handy Weather Answer Book, 2nd ed., Visible Ink Press, 2009, p. 1+. The Handy Answer Book Series. Gale General OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A200117160/ITOF?u=cuny_hunter&sid=bookmark-ITOF&xid=68c06524. Accessed 15 July 2021. (NetID/password login required)

Wikipedia dives a little deeper, citing some classical references to the dog days in Homer. So it's not a modern phenomenon - it's something that has been noted, written about, and suffered through by humans for centuries. 

You can also find lots of advice and recommendations for everything from home furnishings to remedies to try during the hottest days of summer, as well as cool, shady places to visit, in the New York Times Historical database (NetID/password login required) going back to the 1850s.

Image of an advertisement for Hood's Sarsaparilla from an 1884 issue of the New York Times


Luckily, in NYC we can take advantage of the free public pools, or the many city-wide cooling centers to cool off a bit during the dog days of summer. However you choose to do it, we hope you are staying cool and we look forward to seeing you this fall!


Lead image: Hunter College Swimming Pool

The Wistarion, p. 50, 1969, Archives & Special Collections, Hunter College Libraries, Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York City. https://flic.kr/p/rYwQLm

Advertisement from the New York Times Historical database: "Display Ad 5 -- no Title." New York Times (1857-1922), Oct 28, 1884, pp. 8. ProQuest, http://proxy.wexler.hunter.cuny.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.proxy.wexler.hunter.cuny.edu/historical-newspapers/display-ad-5-no-title/docview/94173517/se-2?accountid=27495.

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