101 (Croatian) Dalmatians

You might think tracing an origin of a breed of dogs is a simple task. Not quite so simple when it comes to the adorable white dogs covered in characteristic black spots.

In 1966, the International Cynological Federation of Belgium granted the Dalmatian Yugoslavian breed status, and after the break-up of Yugoslavia, the rights to the breed were transferred over to Croatia. Photo: Vladyslav / stock.adobe.com

Cute black noses, happy disposition, intelligent and faithful. No wonder Disney dedicated one of the studio’s biggest classics to dalmatians – one hundred and one of them, to be precise. The origin of the dalmatian is not entirely clear. It is suspected they might have made their way to Europe from North India via Egypt, Greece, and Italy. Those in favor of such a theory point to ancient figures depicting dogs that look a lot like dalmatians’ ancestors. Of course, it is impossible to tell for sure, though the fact the breed is very resistant to heat suggests it had to have originated in lands exposed to scorching sunlight.

Dalmatian: A true companion

Dalmatians are known for the strong relationship they build with their owners and family. They are very faithful but also not pushovers – if need be they will defend their people against… other people. Their disposition makes them good for kids. Although they will not harm them and see to like their company, again, they will not allow little humans to boss them about. They are highly intelligent dogs that are claimed to be individualistic. A dalmatian is a proud dog that can be stubborn if met with little consequence from its owner. They need to have a clear set of rules from their early years to help them manage the independent side of their characters.

Dalmatians require plenty of outdoor activity, which makes them an ideal breed for those who enjoy outdoor sports. Running is in their blood, and they will gladly support their owners in their quest for fitness.

Dalmatians need company. They do not like to be left alone for prolonged periods of time. Those who spend most of their time at work or running other errands should think twice before taking in a dalmatian – their pet would miss them too much.

So what with the origin?

Recent DNA examination did not bring many answers. In fact, it proved only one thing – that dalmatians are a unique and ancient breed with very little to do with established modern breeds. Regardless of whether there is a grain of truth in the supposed origin of the dalmatians in the East, the first mention of the breed comes from 1719 and is found in Croatian sources.

A New York Fire Department fireman sits on the running board of a fire truck with a Dalmatian in his lap
A New York Fire Department fireman from Fire House #167 sits on the running board of a fire truck with a Dalmatian in his lap, New York City circa 1935. Photo: Lionel Green / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Dalmatians were used as coaching dogs. They ran alongside coaches and protected the travelers and the horses. In fact, research suggests that the DNA mentioned above suggests the Dalmatian is partially related to the Cretan Hound and either Bahakaa Dog or White Antelope Dog the cross resulting in an enduring breed, naturally inclined to run alongside horses.

Which brings us to the second famous historical role the dalmatians played, mainly in the USA – firedog. When firefighters started using horses to pull their equipment, dalmatians were an obvious companion choice. Their barking alerted pedestrians about the upcoming fire carriage. Once on site, their presence soothed the horses in a highly stressful situation. Not to mention they acted as natural guards for the site.

The most widely accepted etymology for the breed’s name is connected to the Croatian region of Dalmatia, although you will still find some disputing this fact. And indeed, the breed is officially Croatian. In 1966, the International Cynological Federation of Belgium granted the dalmatian a Yugoslavian breed status. After the break-up of Yugoslavia, the rights to the breed were transferred over to Croatia.

Circus dog and pest control officer

Dalmatians have stolen the hearts of many dog enthusiasts worldwide. Always valued for its unique qualities, the breed can be called iconic. After all, if one type of dog can secure a safe passage for a carriage, help firefighters in their job, hunt, control vermin, herd sheep, and.. become a circus star, then really, there is not much one could say to challenge the special status of a dalmatian.

Weronika Edmunds

Holder of a DPSI in English Law and an MBA, she believes in lifelong learning. Her passion for theatre shaped her sensitivity to the spoken and written word, leading her to become a creative copywriter. She lives for words and knows how to pour life into otherwise lifeless wording. She likes to repeat after M. Ondaatje: “Words, Caravaggio. They have a power.”

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