Lore of the Constellations: Canis Major

There are two prominent, winter hunting hounds you can find in your sky.  The greater of the two is known as Canis Major, the great dog.  It’s a common misconception that both Canis Major and Canis Minor are two hunting hounds of Orion the hunter.  But actually, the origins of these two dogs are a little different than what you’d think.

Canis Major is said to be based on the dog Laelaps, who was gifted to Europa by Zeus.  Europa, in turn, gifted it to Minos—son of the King of Crete—who, in turn, gave it to Procris.  Apparently, there was something with this dog that made people not want to keep him.  After all, when Procris received the dog it also came with a javelin which would later be used by her husband, Cephalus, to accidentally kill her. 

So, Cephalus then inherited the dog and took it with him to the countryside. 

When they got out to the country they heard tale of a fox that was ravaging the land.  The fox was so swift that no one could catch it.  But, as the story goes, Laelaps the dog was destined to catch whatever he pursued. 

As luck would have it, they ran into this legendary fox and Laelaps set off in pursuit.  At one moment the dog would seem to have its prey within grasps, but could only close its jaws on thin air as the fox raced ahead of it again.  This went on and on with no resolution.

Finally, Zeus intervened and turned them both into stone.  The dog would be placed in the sky by Zeus without the fox.

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