Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Trivia: Three Dog Night

When you think of the phrase “three dog night” you usually think of the ‘70’s American rock band.
But did you know that they got their name from an old saying?

What, exactly, does three dog night mean?

In his 2005 book, Climate Change in Prehistory, William Burroughs explained that the phrase originated from the Chukchi people. These were native Russians from far northeast Siberia who lived on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, brrrr...!

By the way, the name Chukchi means "reindeer people." How cool is that? And no, they're not elves... ;-)

On a cold night, a Chukchi would curl up with a Siberian husky to keep warm. We're betting those Siberian winters had plenty of those.
Wouldn't you love to cuddle with this guy on a cold night?
(Siberian Husky photo: Wikimedia Commons)
On a very cold night, they would sleep with two dogs. A three dog night – you guessed it – was exceptionally, bitterly cold!

Here in the northern hemisphere where we're planted firmly in the middle of Winter's deep freeze, that sounds like a pretty good idea. And if you're owned by Leo the mastiff, like one of my coworkers and her husband - only need one:

Not quite what Leo signed up for when he hopped in bed...!
(photo copyright © 2012, Rachel Allen)

However, according to the Macquarie dictionary of Australian slang, the phrase originated in the Australian outback, with aborigine bushmen digging holes in the ground to curl up with a dingo on a cold night.

Which is the original? Who knows? How the saying might have migrated from the farthest part of the northern hemisphere to Down Under - or vice versa - is above the pay grade of we poor wee kitties!

Google Books: Climate Change in Prehistory
Metaphor Dogs
MacQuarie Book of Slang 
Fun Trivia


  1. Stay warm and we are definitely having a three night dog at the moment. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Cute post! We have 2 kitty nights around here all the time.
    Stay warm kitties!!

  3. Mom says she had heard about the artic one..... And Leo looks like a good snuggler :)

  4. Well, if mum feels extra cold she will just have to make do with a two cat and a dad night.

  5. Up North I remember having some two dog nights and being happy for the shared warmth...These days even a one dog night is rare, but Gizmo has bed privileges regardless ;)

  6. That makes sense to me! Hey, my Dad remembers seeing Three Dog Night (the band) back before they needed flea collars!

  7. My mom said she sure had memories brought back reading this and the name Three Dog Night! Heeee. xox

  8. I also heard that it originated in Australia as well :)

  9. We have been having several 5 Cat Nights around here. I had heard of the origin of the group's name. I still don't get the lyrics, "Jeramiah was a bullfrog," though.

  10. BOL, look at Leo, he makes a super pillow :) We are suppose to be having blizzards in the UK tomorrow..We will see. It was -5 today, which we never really get..We think that's super freezing. Stay warm xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  11. That makes absolutely purrfect sense to us. Heck, when it gets cold here, we have lots of two cat nights. :)

  12. But, but...didn't the dingo eat the baby???

    Regarding BZTAT's question about the bullfrog we found this:

    The opening lines of this song, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine," are part of some wonderful song meaning speculation. A common interpretation is that songwriter Axton's bullfrog is the prophet Jeremiah from The Bible, and we've seen at least one sermon that makes that case that the song represents God's desire to unite all people in happiness (the bullfrog, with his distinctive call that stands out in nature, is God's voice in this interpretation). There's also a case for John Jeremiah, the keyboardist for the '70s Rock group Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah. Axton told a different story about the famous lyric. With the chorus and melody already written, he added some placeholder lyrics where he intended to write proper verses. What came out of his mouth was that famous first line. Axton explained in the Oregon News-Review: "Jeremiah was an expedient of the time. I had the chorus for three months. I took a drink of wine, leaned on the speaker, and said 'Jeremiah was a bullfrog.' It was meaningless. It was a temporary lyric. Before I could rewrite it, they cut it and it was a hit."

    The internet said. So it must be true.
    ; ) Katie

  13. Fortunately, we live in southern California, where three cats will suffice!

  14. We are having three dog weather in a one cat household!! Bummer!!

  15. Well, last night was a three-cat night here. It was the coldest night yet this year and there were three cats in/on the bed!

    The Chans

  16. Mom has to admit she thought of the rock group! Momma told me not to come!! Tee hee

  17. I actually knew this one! *pins medal on TW* She said OUCH!

  18. We usually have a two dog + three cat night here so everyone stays nice and toasty (whether they want to or not!! :p )
    It's nice to think that humans have for a very long time , been cuddling up to animals to keep warm (and happy! ).

    the critters in the cottage xo

  19. Ty so much for informing this ignorant Aussie of the meaning of "Three Dog Night" thank cats huMum is happy with one cat when it gets cold here

  20. We have a 3 cat night here every night!!

    The Florida Furkids

  21. My Human wishes she could get even a ONE-KITTY night, but on the rare occasion I choose to get on the bed when she is in it, I stay in the remotest corner so as not to share the slightest bit of cuddly body heat with her. Heh heh. It drives her MAD.

  22. We have 3 kitty nights here! But it doesn't have much to do with temperature. If there aren't 3 kitties on the bed, the mom isn't happy. We've heard the Australian version of 3 dog nights, it interesting to know they aren't the only ones to claim the story. We think a lot of prehistoric people shared their beds & fleas with their dogs.

  23. we only have one cat nights here...and mostly, Mom gets the warm side of this cat! MOL But we are also a Sibe loving family and nothing like a nice fresh smelling warm Sibe to snuggle with, they keep themselves just as neat and clean as us cats...they even clean themselves like us...they always smell like says my Mom...(waves to Allie...Hi Allie!!) paw pats Savannah


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