If you cannot see images at all on my site click here for an explanation
Home
Horses and Dogs
First Posted: Jan 17, 2010
Apr 14, 2011

Dalmatian, Carriage Dog, Spotted Coach Dog, Firehouse Dog, Plum Pudding Dog, Nicknames Dal, Dally

Steamer and Dalmatian

Dalmatian

Dalmatian


Promex Flags
Country of Origin: Croatia (Dalmatia)

Weight Male 35-65 lb.
Female 35-50 lb.
Height Male 19-24 in.
Female 19-24 in.
Coat White background Color White with black or liver-colored spots
Litter size 6-8 puppies
Life span 12-14 years

The Dalmatian (Croatian: Dalmatinac or Dalmatiner) is a breed of dog whose roots are traced to Dalmatia, a region of Croatia. It is noted for its white coat with either black or liver spots.

Appearance

Body - This popular breed of dog is a well-muscled, mid-sized, elegant dog with excellent endurance, stamina. The Dalmatian is slightly longer than tall according to the European (FCI) standard. The American Kennel Club standard states that the dog should be more square, as long from forechest to buttocks as it is tall at the withers. Shoulder should be well laid back and rear angulation should match the front with the stifle well-bent indicating good angulation in the rear. The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes. The nails are either white and/or the same color as the spots. The ears are thin, tapering toward the tip, set fairly high and carried close to the head.

Size - The breed standard for Dalmatians varies slightly from country to country, with the FCI allowing a larger dog than does the AKC. In general, the height for the Dalmatian is between 19 and 24 inches (48.5 and 61.5 cm) at the withers and the weight is from 35 to 70 lbs (16 to 32 kgs) fully grown. Males are usually larger than females.

Coat - In liver-colored Dalmatians, the nose should be brown. The Dalmatian coat is short, fine, and dense. Dalmatians shed considerably, and shed year-round. The short, stiff hairs shed by Dalmatians will weave their way into clothing, upholstery and nearly any other kind of fabric. While consistent grooming with a hound mitt or curry can lessen the amount of hair that Dalmatians shed, nothing can completely prevent the shedding.

Occasionally, smooth-coated Dalmatians will produce long-coated offspring who shed less often. These dogs are still purebred Dalmatians but cannot be shown.

Coloring - Dalmatian puppies are born white, and their spots come in gradually over the period of a couple of weeks. The most common colors for Dalmatians are black or liver spotted on a white background. Other spotting colors, though not permitted for showing, and rare, are blue (a blue-grayish color), orange or lemon (dark to pale yellow), brindle, mosaic, and tri-colored (with tan spotting on the eyebrows, cheeks, legs, and chest).

Patches often occur in the breed and are a disqualification in the show ring. Patches are present at birth, and consist of a solid color. Patches can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the head and ears. Patches are not to be confused with heavily spotted areas on a dog, however. Spots should be in size of a quarter to half-dollar.

Eye color in Dalmatians is brown, amber, or blue. Dalmatians may have one blue eye and one brown eye. While blue eyes are accepted by the AKC, blue eyes are regarded as a fault in many kennel clubs. The CKC faults any eye color other than black, brown or amber, and the Kennel Club (UK) allows only dark eyes in black-spotted dogs, and amber eyes in liver-spotted dogs.

History

The FCI recognized as its country of origin the region of Dalmatia in the Republic of Croatia, citing Bewick's 1792 work. Previously, Yugoslavia was recognized by the F.C.I. as the country of origin of the Dalmatian; the breed had been developed and cultivated chiefly in England. When the dog with the distinctive markings was first shown in England in 1862 it was said to have been used by the frontier guards of Dalmatia as a guard dog. But nothing is definitely known about its origin. The breed has become widely distributed over the continent of Europe since 1920. Its unusual markings were often mentioned by the old writers on cynology.

The duties of this ancient breed are as varied as their reputed ancestors. They were used as dogs of war, guarding the borders of Dalmatia. To this day, the breed retains a high guarding instinct; although friendly and loyal to those the dog knows and trusts, it is often aloof with strangers and unknown dogs. Dalmatians have a strong hunting instinct and are an excellent exterminator of rats and vermin. In sporting, they have been used as bird dogs, trail hounds, retrievers, or in packs for boar or stag hunting. Their dramatic markings and intelligence have made them successful circus dogs throughout the years. Dalmatians are perhaps best known for their role as a fire-apparatus follower and as a firehouse mascot.

However, the Dalmatian's most important task has been his role as a coach or carriage dog, so called because they were formerly used to run in attendance of a coach. To this day, Dalmatians retain a strong affinity for horses, often naturally falling in behind a horse and cart in perfect position. The strong-bodied, clean-cut and athletic build of the Dalmatians reflects their years as a coach dog, although they are rarely used in this capacity today. Their physical make-up is still ideally suited to road work. Like its ancestors, the modern Dalmatian is an energetic dog, with unlimited energy and stamina.

Association with Firefighters

Particularly in the United States, the use of Dalmatians as carriage dogs was transferred to horse-drawn fire engines, although it is unclear why this link was not made in other countries. Today the Dalmatian serves as a firehouse mascot but, back in the days of horse-drawn fire carts, they provided a valuable service. Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, so the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the carriages to help clear a path and quickly guide the horses and firefighters to the fires. Dalmatians are often considered to make good watchdogs and it is believed that Dalmatians may have been useful to fire brigades as guard dogs to protect a firehouse and its equipment. Fire engines used to be drawn by fast and powerful horses, a tempting target for thieves, so Dalmatians were kept in the firehouse as deterrence to theft. The horses have long since gone, but the Dalmatians, by tradition, have stayed. As a result, in the United States, Dalmatians are commonly known as firehouse dogs. Dalmatians are still chosen by many firefighters as pets, in honor of their heroism in the past.

The Dalmatian is also associated, particularly in the United States, with Budweiser beer and the Busch Gardens theme parks, since the Anheuser-Busch company's iconic beer wagon, drawn by a team of Clydesdale horses, is always accompanied by a Dalmatian carriage dog. The company maintains several teams at various locations, which tour extensively. According to Anheuser-Busch's website, Dalmatians were historically used by brewers to guard the wagon while the driver was making deliveries.

Health

Dalmatians are a very old breed, often thought to be the very first type of dog for which man made deliberate attempts to selectively breed for specific characteristics. These characteristics were at first appearance, then other attributes such as stamina, endurance, and health. The result is a very prolific and long-lived breed of striking appearance, generally free from ailments common to other dogs such as hip dysplasia (which is very uncommon in purebred Dalmatians). Most of their health problems result from the onset of old age; the average Dalmatian lives between 12 and 14 years, although some can live as long as 17 to 18 years. In their late teens, both males and females may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions.

Deafness

An exception to Dalmatians' generally good health is a genetic disposition towards deafness. Deafness was not recognized by early breeders, so the breed was thought to be unintelligent. Even after recognizing the problem as a genetic fault, breeders did not understand the dog's nature, and deafness in Dalmatians continues to be a frequent problem.

Researchers now know that deafness in albino and piebald animals is caused by the absence of mature melanocytes in the inner ear. This may affect one or both ears. The condition is also common in other canine breeds that share a genetic propensity for light pigmentation. This includes, but is not limited to bull terriers, Poodles, boxers, border collies and Great Danes.

Similarly, Charles Darwin commented on the tendency of white, blue-eyed cats to be deaf, while Waardenburg syndrome is the human analog. There is an accurate test called the BAER test, which can determine if the defect is present. Puppies can be tested beginning at five weeks of age. BAER testing is the only way of detecting unilateral deafness, and reputable breeders test their dogs prior to breeding.

Only dogs with bilateral hearing should be allowed to breed, although those with unilateral hearing, and even dogs with bilateral deafness, make fine pets with appropriate training. Research shows that Dalmatians with large patches of color present at birth have a lower rate of deafness, and breeding for this trait, which is currently prohibited in the breed standard, might reduce the frequency of deafness in the breed. One of the leading reasons patches are a disqualifying factor in Dalmatians is to preserve the much prized spotted coat-the continual breeding of patched dogs would result in heavily patched Dalmatians with few spots.

Research concludes that blue-eyed Dalmatians have a greater incidence of deafness than brown-eyed Dalmatians, although an absolute link between the two characteristics has yet to be conclusively proven. Though blue-eyed Dalmatians are not necessarily deaf, many kennel clubs consider blue eyes to be a fault or even a disqualification, and some discourage the use of blue-eyed Dalmatians in breeding programs.

Bladder Stones

Dalmatians, like humans, the great apes, some New World monkeys, and guinea pigs, can suffer from hyperuricemia. The latter lack an enzyme called uricase, which breaks down uric acid. However, in Dalmatians, the deficit seems to be in liver transport. Uric acid can build up in the blood serum (hyperuricemia), causing gout; and can be excreted in high concentration into the urine, causing kidney stones and bladder stones. These conditions are most likely to occur in middle-aged males. Males over 10 are prone to kidney stones and should have calcium intake reduced or take preventive medication.

To reduce the risk of gout and stones, owners should be careful to limit the intake of purine by not feeding these dogs organ meats, animal by-products, or other high-purine ingredients. Hyperuricemic syndrome in Dalmatians responds to treatment with Orgotein, the veterinary formulation of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

In one family of these dogs, a genetic mutation has been reported that contributes to hypouricemia (although hyeruricosuria remains).

Crosses to English Pointers

Hyperuricemia in Dalmatians (as in all breeds) is inherited. However, unlike other breeds of dog the "normal" gene for uricase is not present in the breed's gene pool at all. Therefore, there is no possibility of eliminating hyperuricemia among pure-bred Dalmatians. The only possible solution to this problem must then be crossing Dalmatians with other breeds in order to reintroduce the "normal" uricase gene.

This has led to the foundation of the "Dalmatian-Pointer Backcross Project," which aims to reintroduce the normal uricase gene into the Dalmatian breed. The backcross that was done was to a single English pointer; subsequent breedings have all been to purebred Dalmatians. This project was started in 1973 by Dr. Robert Schaible. The hybrids did not resemble Dalmatians very closely. The f1s were then crossed back to pure-bred Dals. This breeding produced puppies of closer resemblance to the pure Dal. By the fifth generation in 1981 they resembled pure Dals so much that Dr. Schaible convinced the AKC to allow two of the hybrids to be registered along with pure-bred Dals. Then AKC President William F. Stifel stated that "If there is a logical, scientific way to correct genetic health problems associated with certain breed traits and still preserve the integrity of the breed standard, it is incumbent upon the American Kennel Club to lead the way." The Dalmatian Club of America's (DCA) board of directors supported this decision, however it quickly became highly controversial among the club members. A vote by DCA members opposed the registration of the hybrids, causing the AKC to ban registration to any of the dog's offspring.

At the annual general meeting of the DCA in May 2006 the backcross issue was discussed again by club members. In June of the same year DCA members were presented with an opportunity to vote on whether to reopen discussion of the Dalmatian Backcross Project. The results of this ballot were nearly 2:1 in favor of re-examining support of the Dalmatian Backcross Project by the Dalmatian Club of America. This has begun with publication of articles presenting more information both in support of and questioning the need for this Project. As of May 2007, discussion is on-going.

In January 2010, the UK Kennel Club announced its decision to register a backcrossed Dalmatian, pending confirmation of the dog's appearance and characteristics by two Championship Show judges. The decision was made due to the club's "commitment to consider applications to register dogs from out-crossings and inter-variety matings if it is felt that to do so may present potential health and welfare benefits." Several restrictions were imposed on the dog. Although the dog is at least 13 generations removed from the original Pointer cross, its F1 to F3 progeny will be marked on registration certificates with asterisks (which "indicate impure or unverified breeding", no progeny will be eligible to be exported as pedigrees for the next five years, and all have to be health tested.

Popularity

The Dalmatian breed experienced a massive surge in popularity as a result of the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by British author Dodie Smith, and later due to the two Walt Disney films based on the book. The Disney animated classic released in 1961, later spawned a 1996 live-action remake, 101 Dalmatians. In the years following the release of the second movie, the Dalmatian breed suffered greatly at the hands of irresponsible breeders and inexperienced owners. Many irreputable breeders and puppy mills cashed in on the breed's rising popularity, and began breeding high numbers of Dalmatians without first ensuring the health, quality, and temperament of the dogs being bred.

Many well-meaning enthusiasts purchased Dalmatians-often for their children-without educating themselves on the breed and the responsibilities that come with owning such a high-energy dog breed. Since Dalmatians were originally bred to run with horses, they require frequent exercise to keep them out of mischief. Many owners find themselves unable to cope with the breed's or the specimen's characteristics and cannot provide their dogs with adequate care. Dalmatians were abandoned in large numbers by their original owners and left with animal shelters. As a result, Dalmatian rescue organizations sprung up to care for the unwanted dogs and find them new homes.

For More Information:

Dalmatians and Horses

Home
Horses and Dogs