Why Dalmatians Are Associated With Firefighters

Humans and dogs have enjoyed a special relationship for tens of thousands of years, although scientists aren't 100% certain just how long ago we domesticated them, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Over the millennia, through selective breeding, we've managed to produce hundreds of different breeds, for various jobs. Some dogs were bred to herd cattle, some to guard livestock or other property, some to assist with hunting, and so on.

For a couple of centuries now, the dalmatian breed has been identified with firefighters and firefighting. The spotted, black-and-white canines are so tied to firefighting that much of the iconography associated with the industry today references the dogs. For example, a Texas museum features the world's largest fire hydrant, which is painted in black and white spots, similar to a dalmatian. Children are more than familiar with Marshall, the firefighting dalmatian of "Paw Patrol." Dalmatians became associated with firefighting not because they're particularly good at search and rescue or other related jobs, but rather, because they're good with horses.

Dalmatians and horses

Anyone who has spent much time around horses will tell you that they require a lot of attention. According to Mental Floss, if horses spend much time away from the company of other animals, they start to get restless and agitated. For reasons not fully understood, the dalmatian took a shine to horses, and soon enough, the spotted pups were seen walking alongside horse-driven carriages. "They were stable guards. They also ran with the carriages to guard whatever was in the carriage, whether it was passengers or goods," said Cheryl F. Steinmetz, the historian for the Dalmatian Club of America, via the American Kennel Club.

Two centuries ago, firefighting equipment was pulled by teams of horses, and so firefighters had good reason to keep the dogs around their firehouses. Further still, exhausted firemen couldn't always keep watch on the equipment (and here "equipment" means "horses") that thieves were keen to steal, but dalmatians, known to be fierce when necessary, doubled as guard dogs.

These days, firefighting equipment is moved around with internal combustion engines, rather than teams of horses. But so associated with firefighting was the dalmatian that the industry still leans on the dogs as a symbol. To this day, dalmatians can be found around firehouses here and there, usually as pets/mascots for the firefighters.

Dalmatians aren't always the best family pets

When choosing a dog for your family, says HowStuffWorks, you have to consider a variety of factors — how much space you have, how much time the pup will be left alone, whether or not you have small children. All breeds of dogs have strengths and weaknesses, and the dalmatian is no exception. They're generally patient and good with children, and aren't known for being aggressive (except when necessary). However, like their horse friends, dalmatians are high-maintenance, easily bored and antsy if left alone for a long time. That can lead to digging, chewing, and other unwanted behaviors.

The matter of dalmatians being put into homes that may not be right for them was not lost on the Walt Disney Company, which has famously made a TV series and several films, animated and live-action, about the breed. Specifically, as Soapboxie reports, the company added a statement at the end of "102 Dalmatians," reminding viewers to carefully research before making a decision about adding a dalmatian, or any other breed, to the family.