Since the mid 18th century, historians have found references to the breed of dog known as the Dalmatian. The breeds’ first established home, for which the breed was also named after was Dalmatia. It is a place in the Western Yugoslavian area which at one time was part of Austria, located on the Adriatic. However, these dogs were well-known throughout many parts of the world long before that time. The breed was shown in various types of antique art including engravings, paintings, models, and early writings which have accounted for the presence of spotted dogs of the same size and type in wide-ranging areas including early Africa, Asia, and Europe. As history tells us, several bands of ancient gypsies (Romanies) were accompanied by the dogs in their wanderings around the world, which explains the vast widespread and popularity of the breed.
The Dalmatian quickly became a favorite and established some of their best known claims to fame in Great Britain. They were brought there by members of the British upper classes who in those days often made tours to Europe and would often come back accompanied by some of the striking spotted dogs. Right after they were adopted by the English aristocracy who used them to accompany their horse-drawn carriages, the charming dog soon became a feature of these processions. The dogs were taught to station themselves beneath the rear axle of the coach, and in some cases to trot underneath the pole separating the horses. They were also taught to lead the procession, trotting along ahead of the first horse, which was an impressive sight to see!
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Another type of activity with which the Dalmatian became known for, which also said to have started in Great Britain, is his very famous role of being a “firehouse dog.” This was said to have started with the dogs being used as ratters, for the function of killing vermin in London’s stables and firehouses, which they did with expertise. But these dogs loved the horses and the fire engine, so it was almost inevitable that they soon were racing ahead of them through the streets whenever the alarm was sounded. In the present days, many Dalmatians can still be seen riding on the fire trucks with their masters. Dalmatians are still considered as the mascot and are often found in firehouses, not only in Great Britain but in the United States and other countries as well.
In addition to being a “firehouse dog,” Dalmatians have also worked in war times; done sentinel duty; served as shepherd’s dogs; and as draft dogs. They have been seen in many circus shows, especially enjoying popularity with the clowns as “assistants,” their intelligence, aptitude, and showy appearance having fitted them particularly well for this activity.