When most people think about firefighting and dogs, the Dalmatian is the most recognized mascot.
The true origin of the Dalmatian is unknown, although it is
believed to have originated in India. Paintings and figures of spotted
dogs have been found in ruins as old as 5,000 years. Numerous written
references to spotted dogs occur throughout history. The modern
Dalmatian, notwithstanding his name however, was developed in Great
The Dalmatian weighs between 25 and 55 pounds and are between 19
and 23 inches tall. This is a physical breed with a strong muscular body
that allows them to run great distances without tiring. Their white
coat is short with black or liver (brown) spots.
Dalmatians are comfortable around horses and seem to have an
affinity for keeping the horses calm. This was especially noticeable and
was developed, as Dalmatians became a society dog and were trained to
run alongside women’s carriages. It was during this period that they
became known as Coach or Ladies dogs.
The position to the side and rear of a carriage where the Dalmatian
would run became known as coaching. In the 1700’s Dalmatians were used
to protect horses that pulled English stagecoaches. Two Dalmatians would
run next to the horses as they pulled the coach and when other dogs
tried to run out at the coach, the Dalmatians would chase the other dogs
Over the years, Dalmatians formed a bond with horses and this
worked out to the horse owner’s advantage, as the dogs would ward off
horse thieves. Coach drivers with a Dalmatian had the luxury of sleeping
indoors as they knew their dogs would watch and protect the horses.
It was during this time that horse drawn fire fighting equipment
was emerging and the Dalmatian was all ready well recognized for their
carriage dog skills so it was a logical step to begin working with the
Fire horses spent hours waiting in the firehouse waiting for a call
and then once on the scene of the fire were required to spend hours
standing around. It became the job of the Dalmatian to be a stable mate
and guardian to the firehouse horses, helping keep them calm.
The dogs would run with the horse teams to the fires and once
there, would protect the equipment and the horses. These dogs are
dedicated to their owners and the breed adapted easily to the new role
of firehouse working dog.
As with most breeds, Dalmatians are not for everyone. These are
high-energy dogs that require regular training and exercise. If you
aren’t able to give a Dalmatian the time and effort required, you will
be better served to find a different breed.