Believed to have originated in Croatia (or Dalmatia), the earliest records of the Dalmatian date back to the 1600s but it is thought that they are older due to dogs looking much like the modern-day breed in old Egyptian paintings. Their original purpose was to be used as carriage dogs where they would walk beside horse-drawn coaches or guard the horses and coach while unattended, earning them the name "Spotted Coach Dog." In the 1700s, Dals were introduced to England and were seen accompanying water wagons used by fire brigades. The tradition of using these dogs to accompany firemen was brought to the United States, where the Dalmatian became the mascot of fire stations nationwide. The popularity of the spotted dog increased greatly as a result of the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and the Disney films that were based on the book.
Standing at 19 to 24 inches tall, the Dalmatian is a strong, muscular, medium-to-large sized breed that is widely recognized for their distinctive appearance. The spotted coat of the Dal is short, dense, close-fitting, and comes in white with black spots or white with liver spots. A unique feature about the breed is that puppies are born solid white and develop their spots as they mature. The Dalmatian's alert and intelligent expression is thanks to their brown or blue medium-sized eyes and well-proportioned ears that are wide at the base but taper to a rounded tip. Their muzzle is well-defined with a nose that is black on black-spotted dogs and liver on liver-spotted dogs. The tail of the Dal is carried with a slight upward curve but should never curl over the back.
Dalmatians have made appearances as coach dogs and firefighters' best friends due to their loyalty, trustworthiness, and confident personality. Originally bred to watch over unattended coaches and horses, these spotted dogs still retain some of their old guardian instincts. The Dalmatian is an excellent watchdog, always alert to everything going on around them. They tend to be reserved and aloof around strangers but they definitely have an approachable and friendly demeanor when around family and friends. Due to having an independent temperament and strong instincts, Dals can be assertive in the presence of submissive dog owners. It is important that they are properly trained and socialized from puppyhood in order for them to understand boundaries and house leadership. There is no doubt that the Dal is a highly energetic breed. Perfect for the average runner, these athletes require plenty of daily exercise, can become destructive when bored, and are better suited in households with older children who can handle this rambunctious dog. Children, and even adults, were interested in the spotted dog when the Disney film The Hundred and One Dalmatians was released but it was the Dalmatian's lively, clownish, and companionable temperament that made them fall in love.