Dalmatians: Famous Firehouse Dogs

Dalmatians became famous dogs in history for helping firefighters when horses pulled water wagons to the scene of fires.

Dalmatians are strong dogs who can run for miles with considerable speed. They became popular with the aristocrats during the 18th century in the days of coach travel in Europe. Having a natural affinity to horses, the dogs would run with the carriages and protect the horses from other animals that could spook or attack them during the ride.

In the 1800s, when fire engines were horse driven carriages, Dalmatians were adopted by firehouses in Europe and the US. The dogs were a valuable asset to the firefighters in several ways:

When there was no fire, the Dalmatians would act as watchdogs. The dogs would prevent thieves from stealing equipment and horses so the men didn't have to. They also provided companionship to the horses. Horses are not solitary animals. They enjoy having company, and Dalmatians formed an amazingly close bond with them once they were introduced.

When there was a fire and the alarm sounded, the Dalmatians would dash outside and bark to let people know they need to get out of the way so the wagons could get out quickly. Once the wagons were on their way, the dogs would run with them and continue barking to clear a path to the scene.

When the firefighters were concentrating on putting out the fire, the Dalmatians would distract and comfort the horses, who are afraid of fire, as they pulled the wagon closer to the blaze. They also stayed near the wagons to prevent people stealing equipment and horses, and sometimes they would even help rescue people from burning buildings.

Today, Dalmatians are no longer needed to clear pathways or protect and calm horses but many firehouses keep the famous fire dog to serve as a mascot and to educate the public in fire safety. They continue to make excellent watchdogs and they are even good at catching rats that have taken up residence in the firehouse.

Some firefighters choose Dalmatians as personal pets, in honor of their past.