The Dalmatian is one of the most recognizable of dogs, yet its ancestry is among the most mysterious. Models, paintings, writings and engravings from ancient days support the theory that Dalmatians first appeared in Europe, Asia and Africa. The breed was also found in bands of nomadic gypsies, making its history even more mystical. The breed name is among its biggest mysteries. The name was first coined by Thomas Bewick in 1791, but there were no Dalmatian dogs living in Dalmatia when he came up with that name. The first known Dalmatians were imported in 1930 by a ship-owner from England who took his dogs to Dalmatia, a region on the west side of the former Yugoslavia, along the Adriatic Sea, which from 1815 to 1919 was a province of Austria, to live and breed in the place after which they had been named. Dalmatia remains the first proven and accepted home of this breed.
Dalmatians have performed a wide range of tasks for their human companions. They have been dogs of war and sentinels on the borders of Dalmatia and Croatia. They have been draft dogs and shepherds. They are excellent ratters and hunters of vermin, and of course are well-known as firehouse mascots. They are sporting dogs used on birds, as trail hounds and retrievers, and also in packs for boar and stag hunting. Dalmatians are among the most dependable performers in circuses and on the stage due to their amazing memory. This breed’s intelligence and willingness to please make it suited to almost any task that a person could ask of it.
Perhaps the most perfected talent of the Dalmatian is as a coach dog, working with and protecting horses pulling the coach. They are known for trotting in front of or behind horse-drawn carriages and old-time fire-engines. Their task was not to pull weight, but rather to be transport guards, running or walking alongside travelers to protect them and their property.
The average life expectancy of the Dalmatian dog breed is between 11 and 13 years. This is comparable to the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), and consistant with most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Dalmatian are as follows:
- Allergies: Overreaction by the immune system to an allergen, which is any substance capable of inducing a reaction in that particular animal
- Solar Keratosis
- Deafness: Defined as the lack or loss, complete or partial, of the sense of hearing
- Entropion: The inversion, or the turning inward, of all or part of the edge of an eyelid
- Chronic Superficial Keratitis
- Epilepsy: Refers to a group of clinical signs that result from over-stimulation of the brain
- Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
- Hypothyroidism: Inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
- Renal Dysplasia: Small, misshapen kidneys at the time of birth that do not mature normally
- Laryngeal Paralysis