The Dalmatian is a sturdy, athletic dog, famous for its unique black and white patterned coat. The breed rose to a height of popularity with Disney’s 101 Dalmatians movie. There is a lot more to this breed than people are aware of. One of the oldest dogs, the origin of the Dalmatian is rather mysterious. Dalmatians have been spotted in parts of Asia and Europe throughout history. These dogs have also been depicted accompanying chariots in preserved ancient Egyptian scriptures. A unique dog, the Dalmatian has played different roles in different eras. A Dalmatians temperament is mild and calm, but they can be aloof around strangers. They are dependable watchdogs with great stamina and a strong affinity for running and hiking.
Here are 6 things you did not know about Dalmatians.
Their Origin is Shrouded in Mystery
The origin of this breed is quite uncertain. One reason for this may be because historically, Dalmatians have traveled with the Romani people, who have been largely nomadic. (ack.org). Dalmatians have also had different names throughout history. The present name of the breed stems from the region Dalmatia, near Croatia. The breed has had a stronghold there, but we do not know if it was their country of origin.
There is evidence about the Dalmatian being present in Asia and the Middle East as well. Dalmatians have also been seen in ancient Egyptian relics. They have been shown running alongside Egyptian chariots. We can speculate that travelling with Romanian gypsies enabled the breed to spread throughout the world. An early depiction of the Dalmatian dates back to 1360 AD, when historians discovered a painting within the Chapel of Florence in Spain. This painting depicted a dog that eerily resembled the modern Dalmatian.
They Played a Multitude of Roles
The Dalmatian has served different roles throughout different historical eras. They have been widely used as herding and hunting dogs. They specialized in hunting large and small animals such as poultry, wild boar and deer. At times, Dalmatians also filled the role of scent hounds due to their sharp sense of smell. They were also trained to retrieve game without damaging it; hence they also filled a retriever role.
In times of war, the Dalmatians served as Sentinels near the borders of Croatia and Dalmatia. Dalmatians were also bred for ‘coaching’ purposes. They ran alongside a stagecoach. Their job was to clear crowds from the way so the horse could pass. Another reason for them to tag along was to guard the carriage. They provided security at stops and alerted the driver if there was any approaching danger.
Dalmatians were also known as ‘firehouse dogs’. They used to run alongside fire coaches that were horse-drawn. After the invention of fire trucks, Dalmatians were not really needed anymore, but firehouses still kept Dalmatians as mascots.
Dalmatians have also had a variety of nicknames through the years. They have been known as ‘the Firehouse Dog’, ‘The English Coach Dog’, “The Spotted Coach Dog’, ‘The Carriage Dog’ amongst many others. They have also been known as ‘The Plum Pudding Dog’ because their unique spots were a reminder of the traditional spotted dessert.
Their Coats Are One-of-a-Kind
Just like no two individuals have the same fingerprints, no two Dalmatians have the same spotted pattern on their coats. Each Dalmatian’s spots are one of a kind. The breed is commonly recognized with its ‘piebald pattern,’ which is a spotted color on white. Most Dalmatians have black or liver-colored spots. A Dalmatian with a liver coloration gene will have liver-colored spots. Not just the spots, but nose pigment and paw pads can also be liver-colored.
According to the breed standard determined by the American Kennel Club, Dalmatians are defined by round and well-formed spots. The more distinct these spots are, the better it is. Each spot should be the size of a 50-cent coin. Usually, the spots on the head are smaller than the rest of the body. The spots on a Dalmatian’s body should be evenly distributed and can also intermingle a little. Their ears are usually spotted too.
They Are Born Spotless
Dalmatian pups are spotless when they are born. These puppies are usually white when they are born and acquire their spots as they grow older. They start developing spots when they are around 2 to 4 weeks old. By 4 weeks, a Dalmatian pup is well spotted. But the spots keep developing and growing for the rest of their life. Dalmatians have spots on almost every part of their body, such as their bellies, feet, muzzle and tail. At times they also have spots on the roof of their mouth!
They Are Genetically Prone to Hearing Impairments
Approximately 30% of Dalmatians are prone to hearing impairments. Researchers suggest that 3 to 8% of Dalmatians can also be completely deaf. Some experts say the genes that give Dalmatians their unique coats are responsible for the deafness. These genes that cause the spots can, at times, lead to a lack of mature melanocytes, or melanin-producing cells, within the inner ear. It’s difficult to predict if a Dalmatian has a hearing impairment or is prone to deafness. If your Dalmatian is not responding to your commands or is ignoring you, this might be the reason. One interesting fact is that the larger the number of black spots a Dalmatian has, the lower the chances are of having hearing impairments. The bigger the white area is, the higher the chance of developing such health issues is.
They Have an Affinity Towards Horses
Dalmatians have spent a large part of their ‘work life’ accompanying horses. This breed tends to get along with horses exceptionally well. Even in modern times, friendships between Dalmatians and horses develop easily. This special Dalmatian-horse relationship can also be traced back to ancient times. In ancient Egypt, Dalmatians were kept as war dogs and hunting companions. Many historians say that both humans and Dalmatians learned to work together in order to fight and hunt successfully. (thesmartcanine.com)
All these reasons make the Dalmatian a remarkable dog. Dalmatians not only look classy and unique but also serve many purposes. They are loyal, energetic companions that love to be useful.
I can personally attest to these beautiful dogs. My wife brought her Dalmatian into our new family when we were married. Slowly I took her over as “my dog” and we had a special bond. Her name was Cheetah – I will never forget her. 🙂