How did that spotty black and white dog known as a Dalmatian come to be associated with fire fighting? Dalmatians have bee around for 600 years. So, to understand how the Dalmatian became the number-one firehouse mascot in England and the United States, we must take a long look back in history.
The exact time and location of the dog's origin are unknown. However, because Dalmatians appear in an Italian wall painting dated about 1360 A.D. and because these spotted dogs were named after Dalmatian, an Adriatic coastal region, one may assume that they originated somewhere in this area. But, it wasn't until 1780 when the "Dalmatian" was used in the English Language.
Weighing 25 to 55 pounds (11 kg to 52 kg) and standing 19 to 23 inches (450 mm to 377 mm) high, the Dalmatian was the perfect size to serve as coach (as in "stagecoach") dog. (In fact, in Great Britain, Dalmatians are still nicknamed "English coach dogs" and "plum pudding dogs.")
In the 1700s, Dalmatians were used to protect horses that pulled English stagecoaches. Typically two Dalmatians would run next to the horses as they pulled the coach. When other dogs tried to run out and scare the horses, the Dalmatian team would chase them away. Over the years, Dalmatians formed a close bond with horses.
During this time, horse theft was very common. Because of the potential for theft, stagecoach drivers would typically sleep in a hammock strung between two stalls where they could watch for thieves. However, because of the bond between the Dalmatians and the horses, the driver could sleep in a hotel or house if he owned a Dalmatian. Why? Because the Dalmatian would sleep with the horses and guard against horse theft.
Because of the dog/horse bond, the Dalmatian easily adapted to the firehouse in the days of horse-drawn fire wagons. Since every firehouse had a set of fast horses to pull the pumper, it became common for each group of firefighters to keep a Dalmatian in the firehouse to guard the firehouse and horses. When the alarm came in, the Dalmatian led the way for the horse-drawn pumper. In this way, the Dalmatian became the firefighter's companion and a symbol of the fire service. Today, Dalmatians are still found in many firehouses in England, Canada and the United States.