The piebald coat of the Dalmatians with black or brown spots is unique – this pattern does not appear in any other breed of dog. After its original use as a working dog, the Dalmatian became very popular after the publication of the novel 101 Dalmatians, and worldwide fame began in 1961 after the Disney film. The next boom followed in 1996 after the remake of the classic with real animals.
The oldest known images of the piebald dog breed can be seen on the reliefs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs tombs that are thousands of years old. It is believed to have spread from India via Greece to North Africa, from where the Dalmatians came to France and Great Britain. Another version says that the origin is probably in the eastern Mediterranean in Croatia on the Dalmatian coast.
Records in church registers from the 14th century and from 1719 support this assumption. Further references to the geographical origin are paintings by Italian painters from the 16th century and a fresco in the Croatian town of Zaostrog in southern Dalmatia from 1710. At the end of the 17th century, Thomas Bewick describes the Dalmatian in his book in words and pictures. The first breed standard from 1882 comes from the Englishman Vero Shaw, in 1890 the official standard was derived from it.
In the time before the advent of automobiles, the Dalmatian was valued as a persistent companion on horse-drawn carriages. His task was to protect the transported belongings from highwaymen or to keep wild animals away from the team. The docile dog was also used for hunting, as shown in numerous pictures. In the USA, Dalmatians ran ahead of fire brigades with excited barking to clear the way for the horse-drawn emergency vehicle. Around 1930 this breed was re-imported from Great Britain to Dalmatia. In their apparent home, the dogs were mainly trained by the military for border guards, because the characteristics of an incorruptible guard dog perfectly complemented the pronounced hunting instinct with hours of running, retrieving and swimming. Since Dalmatians showed good talent for learning commands, these elegant dogs were often seen in the circus, where they delighted the audience with great tricks.
Dalmatians have a flat, long head with a well-developed stop. The eyes, which are quite far apart, are round in shape and, according to the breed standard, may be dark in black spots or amber in brown spots. Animals with one or two blue eyes are excluded from breeding because they pass on deafness more than average. Set high and thin-skinned, the medium-sized lop ears lie close together. The strongly formed muzzle is slightly rounded towards the nose and is delimited by taut lips. The moderately long neck is followed by muscular shoulders, which give the slim body with a strong chest, straight back and strong legs great elegance. The tail tapers towards the tip and is carried sickle-shaped, slightly erect. The coat is short, smooth and dense. Approved color variants are white-ground with clearly delimited, black or liver-brown dots. In addition, there are also lemon-colored Dalmatians and those with brown and black spots at the same time. These two variants do not meet the breed standard. Dalmatian puppies are born pure white, around two weeks later the typical piebald develops. Too large spots (plates), which usually appear on the head and ears, are also breeding-excluding defects. The final color has only finally developed when the child is one year old.
As a family dog, the Dalmatian has long since made a name for itself, as its nature is extremely friendly and loyal. He may appear a little distant, calm and without any signs of aggression towards strangers. At the same time, however, there is a high need for exercise, which the owner can best meet by extensive bike tours, with the Dalmatian trotting alongside. Daily exercise should last at least two hours, or better still longer. Dog sports such as agility and obedience, nose and search games or catching a frisbee, offer him a lot of fun. If there is not enough time for the dog, constant under-demand can lead to destructive behaviors such as constant barking, aggressiveness and destructiveness. Running outdoors in the garden doesn’t really reduce boredom either, so the Dalmatian uses his intelligence to concoct “nonsense” when the opportunity arises.
As a result of a lack of pigments, Dalmatians have an increased risk of unilateral or bilateral deafness. Blue-eyed animals are particularly affected, whereas “plate drawing” is significantly less susceptible. More often than in other breeds, urinary stones occur through inheritance, the so-called “Dalmatian syndrome”. The trigger for this is the impaired breakdown of uric acid, which is due to a missing enzyme in the liver. The up to ten times higher uric acid level in the urine in turn triggers dermatitis. Males are affected far more often. To counteract this cycle, feed should be low in purine, for example by avoiding offal and beef. Even commercially available wet food, with its many components that are unfavorable for Dalmatians, can intensify the symptoms of the disease and skin irritations. On the other hand, food (including dry food) with a low crude protein content is cheap. In addition, frequent urination and tagging will help the Dalmatian keep uric acid levels lower.
The Dalmatian at a glance
Origin: Croatia FCI breed standard number 153, group 6, section 3: sweat dogs and hounds Size: medium Height at the withers: male 58 – 62 cm, female 56 – 58 cm Weight: male 28 – 30 kg, female 24 – 28 kg, coat color: basic color white with black or brown polka dots. Not allowed: lemon color and tricolor with brown and black polka dots. Eye colors: dark brown, amber-colored. Not allowed: blue or mixed eye color Use: watchdog, assistance dog, rescue dog, therapy dog Character: sensitive, vigilant, athletic, adaptable Health risks: allergies, kidney and bladder stones Life expectancy: approx. 12 – 16 years
Image: © Depositphotos.com / AnkevanWyk