The Dalmatian is one of the most unusual and distinctive of all dog breeds in appearance. Clean limbed, which his clearly defined round spots of black or liver standing out boldly against a pure white back ground, he makes an imposing sight.
The spotted dog figuring so prominently in recent videos and books, such as “101 Dalmatians”, also has been featured in the art of ancient Egypt and Greece. He has passed through many changes in type during the centuries, but, in all, has about as straight a record as any dog. The breed has fallen in popularity since the 1990's, but registration records suggest that it may be gaining ground again among families.
Dalmatian dogs are usually between 19 and 23 inches tall when full grown. They typically weigh 35 to 50 pounds. The spots should not intermingle, but be distinct and well defined. Dalmatians are good family dogs, however they can have a shorter temperament and be more prone to snap at children than say, a Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever. However many families have Dalmatians as pets.
Many names have been applied to this versatile dog. Count Buffon, for some strange reason, called him the Bengal Harrier. The noted writer, Youatt, claimed that he was of the stock as the Danish dog, now the Great Dane, differing only in size. Of course, I have yet to see a white Great Dane with spots. The English had a number of nicknames for the breed, among them being “English Coach Dog”, “Carriage Dog”, “Plum Pudding Dog”, “Fire House Dog”, and “Spotted Dick.” He was also called the “Talbot,” which support the theory that he was descended from the Old English Hounds.
The Dalmatian, as we know him today, is definitely not a hound, but author James Watson points out that in the early days the label “hound” was used rather loosely. Yet the Dalmatian has actually been used in many ways in which sporting dogs are used. He is a good tracker, a better than fair retriever, and can, with training, be developed into a “gun dog”. His versatility goes beyond the sport of hunting, for the Dalmatian has been used in practically every role assigned to dogs. He has been a draft dog and a shepherd, a sentry and a guard. He has even occupied the spotlight of the state and circus, and has done well in those roles.
As a “coach dog” the Dalmatian stands pre-eminent. Early Egyptian art features dalmatians following chariots. His love for accompanying horses on the road is an inbred instinct, developed over hundreds of years. And in the days of coaching he lent dress, distinction, and dignity to any horse drawn operation. In fact, this is how the Dalmatian grew to be a mainstay with firehouses. After fire men ceased to pull the tankers with horses, the Dalmatian stayed on as a firehouse mascot and symbol of firemen.
In the early days of coaching, the old fashion of cropping the ears close to the head was followed and the trademark of the Dalmatian was a padlocked brass collar. The practice of cropping the ears has been abandoned since the turn of the 20st century. The puppies are born white, but spots develop in the first week or two after birth. The “spotted” black on white pattern is the most sought after, with larger patches of black being frowned upon.