There is no "O" in Dalmatian and there is no evidence that the breed originated in Dalmatia! This statement just serves to illustrate how much is unknown about the Dalmatian's origin. We do know that it is a very old breed, having come through many centuries virtually unchanged. Spotted dogs have appeared in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
They have been found painted on walls of tombs running behind Egyptian chariots and mentioned in letters written in the mid-1500s from a poet named Jurij Dalmatin to a Bohemian duchess. A fresco in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy painted around 1360 shows a spotted dog of the Dalmatian type. The Dominican order of friars who support this church wear white habits with black overcapes. The church came to be represented symbolically in the art of the day by a black and white dog, particularly during the time of the Inquisition, which was overseen by the order of the Dominicans.
Spotted dogs frequently accompanied bands of Romany people, or gypsies, as they wandered from India throughout Europe and on to England. Or was there another religious connection to the breed's name? Priests wear a vestment, a tunic-type garment with sleeves, which has come to be called a Dalmatic, because early ones were made of the wool from sheep from the mountains of Dalmatia. As the church's power increased in the world, the Dalmatic became more ornate and later ones from the time can be seen at the Vatican on display that are made of ermine - a white fur with black flecks or spots through it.
All deacons and officiating bishops in the western Catholic church wear the Dalmatic, as do the kings and queens of England upon their coronation. And it is the English that have given him a miriad of nicknames - the English Coach Dog, the Carriage Dog, the Plum Pudding Dog, the Fire House Dog, the Spotted Dick - though the breed has been credited with a dozen nationalities and as many native names.
The duties the Dalmatian has performed are as varied as his reputed ancestors. He has been a dog of war, a sentinnel on the borders of Dalmatia and Coratia. He has been employed as a draft dog and as a shepherd.
He is excellent on rats and vermin. He is well-known for his heroic performances as a fire-apparatus follower and as a firehouse mascot. As a sporting dog he has been used as a bird dog, a trail hound, a retriever and in packs for boar and stag hunting. His retentive memory has made him one of the most dependable performers in circuses and on the stage. Down through the years, his intelligence and willingness have qualified him for virtually every role that useful dogs are called upon to perform.
But most important among his talents has been his status as the original, one and only coaching dog. There is no end of proof, centuries old, among history that shows the Dalmatian, early ones with ears entirely cropped away and wearing padlocked or brass-studded collars, plying his trade as follower and guardian of the horse-drawn vehicle.
His affinity for horses remains a basic instinct to this day and it is fascinating indeed to watch an adolescent fall in behind a horse and cart in perfect position or trot just beside the shoulder of a horse upon his initial introduction, as if he had been doing it all his life, which, of course, his ancestors have! He is physically fitted for road work; speed and endurance blended perfectly in his make-up. His gait has beauty of motion and swiftness and he has the strength, vitality and fortitude to keep going gaily until journey's end.
There is no dog more picturesques than this spotted fellow with his slick white coat gaily decorated with clearly defined round spots of jet black or deep brown (in the liver variety). He does not look like any other breed, for his markings are peculiarly his own. The Dalmatian is first of all a gentleman, a quiet chap and the ideal guard dog, distinguishing nicely between barkings for fun or with purpose. He is sensible, dependable and courteous toward strangers, but he is not everyone's dog - he has a fine sense of distinction as to whom he belongs.
He is all ready for sport or the show ring just as nature made him, requiring no cropping, docking, stripping or artifices of any sort. His flashy spottings are the culmination of ages of careful breeding. At birth, however, the pigment is only in the skin and the hair is pure white, the color having to grow into the hair and begins to appear at about two weeks of age. The first Dalmatian was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1888 and the breed's parent club, the Dalmatian Club of America, was founded in 1905.