For years, Dalmatians have been closely associated with firehouses, but why? The answer is really quite simple—if you’re willing to go back in history about 600 years or so. The Dalmatian, named after the Adriatic coastal region of Dalmatia, is an extremely physical breed that can run great distances without tiring. So, during the time when horse and carriage was the primary method of transportation, Dalmatians were the perfect coach dogs. They were trained to run alongside a woman’s carriage, part for protection and part as a companion to the horses. As time evolved, the dogs were used to protect the horses that pulled English stagecoaches, chasing away other dogs that tried to scare the horses. It was not uncommon to see two Dalmatians running next to the horses as they pulled a coach, and soon a close bond formed between dog and horse.
When horse-drawn fire apparatus came into being, it seemed like a natural fit to couple the dogs with the horses that pulled the apparatus. The horses, which had to spend long periods of time at the scene of a fire—and even longer intervals waiting to be called into action—got antsy. Their close companion, the Dalmatian, helped to calm them. The dogs were also used to guard the fire apparatus while the firefighters tended to the fire. Soon it was commonplace to keep a Dalmatian at the firehouse to serve as a companion to both the firefighters and the horses.
Long after the horse-drawn fire apparatus were retired, the Dalmatian remained in many firehouses throughout the United States, Canada and England, serving as a constant, loyal companion to the firefighters and a symbol of fire service throughout the years.