Why Are Dalmatians Linked to Firefighting?


Sure, his coloring makes him look good against a red background, but it turns out that in the early days of firefighting, the Dalmatian served an important purpose.

In the 1800s, fire engines were horse-driven carriages. Unfortunately, horses and much of the other equipment found in a fire station were a prime target for thieves at that time, especially in some of the poorer urban areas (which is where the majority of fires occurred). Some firefighters tried to combat thievery by sleeping alongside their steeds, but there are times when nothing will wake a man exhausted from battling a blaze for hours on end. Eventually the solution became clear: a watchdog.

And not just any watchdog. Horses are not solitary animals. They prefer the companionship of some other animal, whether it be another horse, a dog, a goat or even a chicken. Left alone too long, they grow restless and neurotic. Dalmatians, it was discovered, more than any other breed of dog, formed an amazingly close bond with horses once they were introduced. They also became quite protective and possessive of their equine friends, so it became impossible for anyone to try to spirit away a horse under cover of the night.

After they solidly established a reputation as being ferocious (when necessary) guardians, the spotted pooches were also used by stagecoach drivers for the same purpose, and were often colloquially called “coach dogs.”