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Canis Major, the Greater Dog Necklace

Canis Major, the Greater Dog Necklace

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Canis Major is commonly taken to represent the “greater dog” following the hunter Orion in Greek myth. The constellation is depicted as a dog standing on its hind legs, pursuing a hare, represented by the constellation Lepus.

Canis Major was described by Manilius as “the dog with the blazing face” because the dog appears to hold Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, in its jaws.

In mythology, Canis Major is associated with Laelaps, the fastest dog in the world, one destined to catch anything it pursued. Zeus gave Laelaps to Europa as a present, along with a javelin that could not miss. The gift proved to be an unfortunate one, as Europa herself was killed accidentally by her husband Cephalus, who was out hunting with the javelin.

Cephalus took the dog to Thebes in Boeotia (a Greek province north of Athens) to hunt down a fox that was causing some trouble there. Like Laelaps, the fox was extremely fast and was destined never to be caught. Once the dog found the fox and started chasing it, the race did not appear to have an end in sight. Zeus himself finally ended it and turned both animals to stone. He placed the dog in the night sky as the constellation Canis Major.

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