When it comes to canine companions, the police have German Shepherds, the DEA have Labradors and firefighters have mighty Dalmatians. Curious how this came to be? So were we!
Dalmatians melt hearts sitting proud atop fire trucks in hometown parades, but what may seem like an odd choice of mascot actually has a very interesting and functional beginning.
As it turns out, Dalmatians became firefighters’ best friend long before the modern fire truck hit the streets. In the early days of fire fighting, firefighters rode into battle on wagons pulled by horses and did not have blaring sirens that would clear the street before them.
The fire wagons needed something to act as a siren to clear the path, and a barking dog running ahead did the job. When the bell would ring at the firehouse, the dog would race out barking to clear the way for the horses and alert pedestrians to keep the path clear. The dog would also chase off other dogs that would run out and spook the horses.
As the firemen were battling the blaze, the horses would logically become nervous, and the dog would help calm the horses during the chaos.
An additional task for the dogs was that of protection. Horses and the fire equipment were a popular target for thieves. After hours spent fighting fires, a firemen couldn’t be expected to stay alert and awake protecting their equipment and the much sought after horses. They needed a Watchdog too.
Why did Dalmatians specifically get picked for these important tasks? It was believed that more than any other breed, the Dalmatian was the most compatible with horses, having a special calming effect on them.
Physically, they were perfect as well. They are built to be able to run long distances without tiring. They have a great guarding instinct and know when to be fierce.
The horses and carriages are now gone and modern fire trucks with sirens have replaced the need for a dog, but the Dalmatian’s heroic and historical importance haven’t been forgotten. They are now the proud mascot of many firehouses in the United States.