If on January 12th the sun shine, it foreshows much wind.’

Abney Park cemetary in winter
Abney Park Cemetery in Winter photo by Harriet Salisbury

Or so says the Shepherd’s Almanac for 1676. Until the 12th Night we were forecasting the weather on the presumption that the weather on one of the 12 days will match the month of the same number. But having past Twelfth Night we have to find other methods of refining our forecasts.

Weather lore seems convinced of the undesirability of a warm January

‘January warm, the Lord have mercy’.

January commits the fault and May bears the blame.’

If Birds begin to Whistle in January, frosts to come’

‘When gnats swarm in January, the peasant become a beggar’

Most of the sayings about January quoted in Richard Inwards ‘Weather Lore’ first published in 1893, have this as their main focus. And the contrary also generally holds:

‘When oak trees bend with snow in January, good crops may be expected.’

‘A cold January, a feverish February, a dusty March, a weeping April , and a windy May presage a good year and gay.’

So much for long range forecasts, lets see how Weather Lore helps us use animals to determine whether it will rain today.

If animals crowd together, rain will follow.’

When dogs eat grass it will be rainy

When a cat sneezes, it is a sign of rain

‘If young horses do rub their backs against the ground, if is a sign of great drops of rain to follow.’

The only weather lore in my family was that a herd of cattle sitting down meant rain was on the way. (and of course ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’ etc).

A survey by the Met Office in 2017 found that a surprisingly large number of people (75%) use ‘folklore’ to predict weather and 55% think they are useful methods of predictions. Here is a quote from their post.

  • Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight – used by 70% of UK adults – CORRECT
  • It can be too cold to snow – used by 49% – PROBABLY NOT IN THE UK
  • Cows lie down when it is about to rain – used by 44% – NOT CORRECT
  • Pine cones open up when good weather is coming – used by 26% CORRECT
  • If it rains on St Swithin’s day, it will rain on each of the next 40 days – used by 22% SINCE RECORDS BEGAN IN 1861, THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A RECORD OF 40 DRY OR 40 WET DAYS IN A ROW FOLLOWING ST SWITHIN’S DAY.

Met Office 2017 https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2017/do-cows-really-lie-down-when-its-about-to-rain and BBC Newsround

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2 Replies to “If on January 12th the sun shine, it foreshows much wind.’”

  1. In the Midwest of the US if squirrels are out eating in the rain it’s going to rain all day. Pretty true from what I’ve seen

    1. I must be physic, I was going to add and ‘if squirrels’ one but then found it was about Spaniels, then you post your Squirrel story!


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