The Dalmatian is believed to have its origin in a coastal province of the Austrian Empire called Dalmatia, known today as Croatia, around 1300 A.D. It was from this area that the breed received its name. The Dalmatian’s spotted legacy is recorded in ancient Italian and Egyptian art. It was in the ancient Egyptian art that the spotted dog was depicted accompanying chariots.
Dalmatians were imported into England in the 18th century, where they became very well liked and known. Through the years the Dalmatian has served many duties. They have been used as draft, shepherd, and hunting dogs by farmers and in wartime as sentinel and attack dogs. However, the most popular use was as a coach dog. The aristocratic lords of England naturally adopted their distinctive and dignified appearance. Many coaches had one or more Dalmatians in attendance. The dogs would ride next to the coachman or trot under the front or rear axle or between the horses. Their natural stamina, speed and agility made them ideal companion to the horses and coach. Their protective instincts were a great asset to the coach's occupants, especially while traveling in the less desirable areas of the country.
During the period of horse drawn fire apparatus the Dalmatian’s duties and loyalty insured them a place in the fire service history. The Dalmatian served multiple rolls in the fire service. At the station they would root out the rats, protect the men, horses and equipment from vandals, vagrants and thieves, and be a loyal companion to men and horse. On fire calls they would run with the horse teams to ward off people and dogs from their path. Once on the scene the Dalmatians role was that of guard dog and would keep the horses calm and ward off any unwanted dogs and insure that nothing was stolen from the apparatus.
Today the Dalmatian is considered the firefighters’ companion and the traditional mascot of the fire service. Dalmatians can be found in firehouses around the world, continuing to serve as a guard dog and companion to the firefighters and equipment that adopted them centuries before. Their aristocratic good looks, low maintenance, high energy, unrelenting loyalty and bravery suite them well for the fire service. Dalmatians can still be seen riding fire apparatus as they respond to fire calls.