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Dalmatian Dog: Friend of Horses breed with black spots

Updated on June 9, 2018
dahoglund profile image

Don has worked in newspaper writing, business writing, and technical writing.

Dalmatians playing.
Dalmatians playing. | Source


Dalmatian is a dog breed recognizable by its black spots. This dog was used as a coach dog and later as a firehouse dog. Since firehouses no longer use horses the dog’s presence is currently one of mascot, pet and symbol. They have been around for some 600 years and have been used for a variety of purposes and have strong guard instincts.


This dog has been around for around 600 years. The Dalmatian Dog probably started in Croatia. Its roots have been traced back to

Dalmatia, which is a region of Croatia where illustrations of the Dalmatian have been found. The development of the breed was mostly in England where it was cultivated. It was first shown in a dog show in England in 1862. At that time were probably used as a guard dog and companion to the nomads of Dalmatia. However there is little known of the Dalmatian's origins. In 1920 the breed was starting to be widely distributed in Europe.

What Do Dalmatians Do?

In the region of Dalmatia they served as guard dogs to guard the borders. They still retain a high guard instinct. They are friendly and loyal to those they trust but stay aloof of strangers, both people and dogs. They also have a strong instinct for hunting and have been used as bird dogs, trail hounds, retrievers and in packs they have been used for hunting boar and stag, according to Wikipedia. They have been successful as circus dogs and guard dogs.

These dogs have been used as rescue dogs , guardians, and athletic partner.



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Dalmation 1859

Dalmatian  1859
Dalmatian 1859 | Source

Temperament and characteristics

The Dalmatian is intelligent, playful, loyal, and active. Generally they get along well with other animals, especially horses. They are high-energy dogs and love to play and romp outdoors. They sometimes are stubborn. According to Wikipedia if they are cooped up they can become aggressive. Usually it will just show up in a tendency to bark, often just for play.

They are a physical breed and have strong muscled body and can run long distances without tiring.

Dalmatian puppies are born with a plain white coat. About a week later spots begin to appear. They usually have all their spots within a month. The spots can be as small as a quarter and as large as a half dollar. Usually black and sometimes brown—referred to as liver spots. Sometimes more rare colors appear, such as blue, blue-grayish, brindle, mosaic or tri-color. Also orange or lemon (dark to pale yellow.)

Their coat is usually short, fine and dense. Sometimes smooth-coated Dalmatians produce long-coated offspring.

Dalmatians should be groomed weekly and their short-stiff hair does get into clothing, upholstery and other fabrics. Because they do not have a lot of oil in their coat Dalmatians do not get a “dog” smell

Dalmatian named Zagreb's Temptress at TNG, pictured at 6 months.
Dalmatian named Zagreb's Temptress at TNG, pictured at 6 months. | Source

Deafness and Health

Dalmatians have a genetic predisposition to deafness. About 70% of Dalmatians have normal hearing. At one time the deafness was mistaken for lack of intelligence.

Research has found that deafness in albino and piebald animals is caused by absence of mature melamocytes in the inner ear It can affect one or both ears.

  A test called the BAER test can determine if the defect is present.

Hip dysphasia is not a major issue with Dalmatians. They do have problems as they reach old age and may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions. Autoimmune thyroiditis is a fairly common condition. The dogs ordinarily live 12 to 14 years, although some live as long as 18 years.


The Dalmatian and horses are very attuned to each other and they have been associated together since they were first used as Coach Dogs or Carriage Dogs. It seems that the Dalmatian has been associated with horses ever since the breed was known. The dog seems to have a calming effect on the horses.  Mounted hunters or warriors may have used the dog in its early days.

Coach Dog

 In the 17th through the 19th Centuries the breed were known as Couch Dogs or Carriage Dogs They were trained to run alongside of ladies carriages. Even the term coaching originated from how Dalmatians took a position just off to the side, towards the rear of a horse and run with it.

They were used to protect the horses in 18th Century England. Usually a team of two dalmations was used to protect the English coaches. When other dogs bothered the horses or tried to scare them the Dalmatians would chase them away.

Horse theft was a problem and stagecoach drivers would stretch a hammock between two stalls so as to keep an eye on the horses but if the driver had a Dalmatian he could sleep elsewhere than with the horses. The dog could sleep with the horses and guard against thieves

Firehouse dogs.

Most of us today associate the Dalmatian as the Firehouse Dog. When horses pulled fire vehicles, the Dalmatian was a natural to go along.

The fire horses were spirited horses that had to pull the fire vehicles as quickly as possible to the scene of a fire but then they had to wait, sometimes for hours at the fire scene. They also did a lot of waiting at the firehouse. The dogs helped keep the horses calm. At the scene of the fire the dog became the guard dog to make sure nothing was stolen from the fire wagon and also served as guard dogs for the firehouse and the horses. When the fire alarm went off the dog led the way for the horse drawn pumper.

They have become the mascot, symbol and often the guard dog for the fire equipment and firehouse. However today they are apt to ride on the truck rather than run with it.

Budweiser and Busch gardens

Anheuser-Busch is known for its beer wagon pulled by Clydesdale horses. A DALMATION CARRIGE DOG always accompanies it.

Books and movies

Many people associate the Dalmatian with the Book and movie “101 Dalmations.”


The Dalmatian dog originally came from Croatia about 600 years ago, has been used as a hunting dog, guard dog, show dog, carriage dog and finally as a firehouse guard and mascot. They have been associated with horses through most of their history and have provided valuable service in association with horses.

© 2011 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I believe you have something there. I do recall something about highwaymen that I read some time ago. Thanks for contributing.

    • profile image

      m dailey 

      6 years ago

      I believe Dalmatians were used to stop highwaymen from startling horses, and thus stopping their drawn carriages. (Horses are stupid.) Startling a Dalmatian would be a bad idea.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for the comment Shawn. Maybe because I once had a Dalmatian I like them. but they do have an interesting history.

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 

      7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Great hub. Dalmatians are an interesting breed of dog. I'm going to be sure an read you other hubs on dogs as well.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for the comment and vote.For some reason I hardly ever see any Dalmatians anymore.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Dalmation is always beautiful. Thanks for writing this dog. This hub totally useful for dog's lovers. Rated up as always. Have a great day. Cheers...


    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I had a Dalmation back in high school.My father was dying of cancer at the time and the dog made him nervous. My mother felt it necessary to give the dog away.Thanks for commenting.

    • suziecat7 profile image


      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      One of my fondest childhood memories is my grandfather's Dalmation, Lady. She lived a long life and was very friendly. Enjoyed this Hub.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I am gratified that you found this hub of such interest. thank for commenting.

    • toknowinfo profile image


      7 years ago

      I never knew there was an area called Dalmatia. It is fascinating how they protected horses from being stolen. I really learned a lot. Rated up and awesome.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      KoffeeKlatch Gals

      I believe that is true,people thought they were not very smart.The same was probably true of deaf people. Thanks for commenting.

      Peggy W

      I agree that there is something special in the tie between horses and dalmatians.Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting is the tie between horses and the dalmation dogs. I had no idea that they originated in Croatia. Voting this useful.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      dahoglund, the dalmation certainly has an interesting background. I had heard years ago that they are not too bright, appartently that was before the predisposition to deafness became well known.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I believe your question got me to look it up before.

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Thanks for the information. I'd always wondered why the Dalmatian was associated with fire houses.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for reading them. I am glad you like them.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love all your hubs on dogs!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      It may be partly protectiveness but I think there is an element of companionship between these dogs and the horses..We had a Dalmatian once, they are nice dogs.Thanks for your comment.

    • Tamarajo profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting article. Never knew the Dalmation was connected to Horses maybe the horses know they are protected when the dog is around. They sound like they might make a nice family pet.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I may have run across that information but since this article is for the general reader I did not want to get into too much detail.

      I appreciate your comments and vote.

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      7 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Dalmatians are truly beautiful dogs. Are you aware that if both their eyes are blue, they will have the propensity to go deaf?

      I have heard that they also can have a very temperamental disposition.

      Voted ya up buddy.

      The Frog Prince

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading it and commenting.

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Another great Hub about man's best friend!


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