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Canis Minor

Star Lore

Canis Minor is small constellation in the northern celestial hemisphere. Its name is Latin for "Lesser Dog," in contrast to Canis Major, the "Greater Dog."

The constellation's main star Procyon ( α CMi) is the eighth-brightest star in the night sky.

Ancient Mesopotamia

In the Mesopotamian Three Stars Each table, dating to around 1200 BC, Procyon and Gomeisa were named MASH.TAB.BA., meaning "twins."

Later, in the MUL.APIN tables, that name was related to the deity Lú.Làl and his monstrous alter-ego Lātarāk.

The constellation also represented as a rooster named DAR.LUGAL; its position defined as "the star which stands behind it [Orion]".

Sources: Wikipedia, J.H. Rogers, Origins of the Ancient Constellations

Ugallu and Lulal, Nineveh, 645 BC
Source: Jonathan Cohen

Ancient Egypt

According to Mark R. Chartrand, the ancient Egyptians thought of this constellation as Anubis, the jackal god.

Source: Wikipedia

Anubis Statue, Vatican Museums
Source: Wikipedia

Greek Mythology

The earliest Greek records by Homer, Hesiod and Aratus refer to Canis Major and Canis Minor as Orion's hunting dogs, pursuing Lepus the Hare or helping Orion fight Taurus the Bull.

Ian Ridpath tells us more about this "lesser" dog:

"Representing the smaller of the two dogs of Orion, Canis Minor originally consisted of just the bright star Procyon, known in Greek as Προκύων (Prokyon), meaning "before the dog" or "foredog". This name, used by the Greeks for both the star and the constellation, comes from the fact that it rises earlier than its more prominent kennel-mate Canis Major which Ptolemy called simply Κύων (Kyon), the Dog. ...

Orion and his hunting dogs
Source: Bob Moler's Ephemeris Blog
...In a famous legend from Attica ..., recounted by the mythographer Hyginus, the constellation represents Maera, dog of Icarius, the man whom the god Dionysus first taught to make wine. When Icarius gave his wine to some shepherds for tasting, they rapidly became drunk. Suspecting that Icarius had poisoned them, they killed him.

Maera the dog ran howling to Icarius’s daughter Erigone, caught hold of her dress with his teeth and led her to her father’s body. Both Erigone and the dog took their own lives where Icarius lay.

Zeus placed their images among the stars as a reminder of the unfortunate affair.

[End of Ian Ridpath quote]

Canis Minor in "Urania's Mirror", 1824
Source: Wikipedia
The name Procyon (α CMi) comes from the Greek Prokyon (Προκύων), meaning "before the dog," referring to the star's rising before the "Dog Star" Sirius (α CMa).

Source: Wikipedia
Some sources like greekmythology.wikia connect Canis Minor with the Teumessian Fox, a beast turned into stone with its hunter, Laelaps, by Zeus, who placed them in heaven as Canis Major (Laelaps) and Canis Minor (Teumessian Fox), where they are destined to chase each other for eternity.

For the full story on the Teumessian Fox, see Canis Major.

Sources: Ian Ridpath, Wikipedia

The Teumessian fox and Laelaps, the dog; greekmythology.wikia

Middle East and Asia

Arabian Peninsula

The stars of Canis Minor are part of the ancient Arab legend of Jawza'.

When Jawwza' died, her husband Suhayl had to flee to the south. He became Canopus (α Car). One of his sisters followed him into exile and became Sirius (α CMa), called ash-shi’ra al-‘abur, the Shi’ra who crossed over.

The other sister, however, stayed behind on the other side of the river (which is the Milky Way). She cried over the loss of her brother and her sister and was called ash-shi’ra al-ghumaysa, the little bleary-eyed Shi’ra, a name that was given to α Canis Minoris. Nearby β Canis Minoris was called mirzam al-ghumaisa' (مرزم الغميصاء), the "Girdle of the Bleary-eyed One."

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube: Where Orion is Known as Al-Jawza'

Medieval Arab Astronomy

The medieval Arabic astronomers maintained the depiction of Canis Minor (al-Kalb al-Asghar in Arabic) as a dog; in his Book of the Fixed Stars, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi included a diagram of the constellation with a canine figure superimposed.

There was one slight difference between the Ptolemaic vision of Canis Minor and the Arabic; al-Sufi claims Mirzam, now assigned to Canis Major, as part of the collar of Canis Minor.

While α Canis Minoris is now known by its Greek name Procyon (see above), β Canis Minoris was given the proper name Gomeisa, derived from al-ghumaisa', the Bleary-eyed One.

Source: Wikipedia

Canis Major in Pergamenthandschrift M II 141,
a 15th century copy of al-Sufi's drawing

Ancient China

In Chinese, Canis Minor is written 小犬座

In Chinese astronomy, the constellation is located in the quadrant of the Vermilion Bird of the South.

The entire constellation is located in the 22nd Lunar Mansion, called The Well. Here, the stars of Canis Minor are part of two different asterisms.

Ian Ridpath describes them as follows:

Procyon along with Gomeisa and Epsilon Canis Minoris formed Nanhe, the southern river (the northern river, Beihe, included Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Lying either side of the ecliptic, Nanhe and Beihe were also interpreted as gates or sentries.

Shuiwei, the "water level", consisted of a curved line of four stars representing a water level marker or, according to one interpretation, a drainage manager who releases water at times of flooding. The stars are usually identified as 6 and 11 Canis Minoris, and 8 and Zeta Cancri.

Souces: Ian Ridpath, Wikipedia



To the /Xam people of southern Africa the bright stars Castor (α Gem) and Pollux (β Gem) were two female eland antelopes with Procyon (α CMi), the bright star in Canis Minor being their male companion.

Source: Astronomical Society of Southern Africa - African Ethnoastronomy

Eland Bull
Source: Wikipedia

Sotho, Tswana

The Basuto, Lobedu, Northern Sotho and Tswana had a constellation called Magakgala or Mahakala that was formed by the four bright stars Procyon (α CMi), Betelgeuse (α Ori), Rigel (β Ori) and Sirius (α CMa).

When these stars were visible in the early evening, it was time for the corn harvest.

Source: ASSA - African Ethnoastronomy

Procyon, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Sirius



The Wardaman people of the Northern Territory gave Procyon and Gomeisa the names Magum and Gurumana, describing them as humans who were transformed into gum trees (Eucalyptus) in the dreamtime.

Although their skin had turned to bark, they were able to speak with a human voice by rustling their leaves.

Source: Wikipedia

Gum Tree
© Gale Sutton


In Māori, Procyon is called Puanga-hori, meaning the "False Puanga" (Puanga is the name for Rigel (β Orionis).

On Tahiti, Procyon is one of the ten pilars that hold up the sky like pilars hold up a traditional Polynesian roundhouse. It is called Ana-tahua-vahine-o-toa-te-manava, literally "Aster the priestess of brave heart", figuratively the "pillar for elocution."

Sources: Wikipedia, Maori Star Names, Rongorongo, Polynesian Star Catalog

Right: Traditional Polynesian roundhouse,held up by pillars, Source:

North America


On the Ojibwe Star Map, Procyon (α CMi) together with Aldebaran (α Tau), and the stars of Orion, are called Biboonkeonini, the Winter Maker, as their presence in the night sky heralds winter.

Wintermaker is a strong Ojibwe canoe man and an important mythological figure in Ojibwe culture. His outstretched arms rule the winter sky. Wintermaker is seen overhead during the winter months.

Sources: St. Cloud State University Planetarium,

Source: Ojibwe Constellation Guide


Tăish Tsoh, the Big Snake constellation is located in the southern sky made of parts of the Greek constellations Puppis and Canis Major.

Historically Navajos used this constellation to indicate the coming and going of winter. This constellation is thus visible when the snakes on earth are hibernating in the ground.

Source: Navajo Skies

Tăish Tsoh © Melvin Bainbridge

Flags and other National Symbols

The center of the Brazilian flag presents the night sky as it would have been on November 15, 1889 at 08:30 over Rio de Janeiro. Each star corresponds to a Brazilian Federate Unit, sized in proportion relative to its geographic size.

Procyon represents the state of Amazonas.

Source:Wikipedia, Flags of the World - Astronomy of the Brazilian Flag

Modern Day Fiction

In the Star Trek Universe, Andoria, a moon orbiting the eights planet of Procyon is the home world of the Andorians, one of the four founding members of the United Federation of Planets.

Another (fictional) planet of the Procyon system is the scene of the Battle of Procyon V in the episode Azati Prime of the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise.

Source: Wikipedia

Andoria and Procyon VIII

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