October 1 marked National Fire Pup Day, a celebration of the working dogs who assist our firefighters in search and rescue efforts. Did you know that Dalmatians have served as a firehouse coworker and companion since the 1700s? When we think of these dogs we immediately envision a Dalmatian in a red fireman’s helmet because they’ve always been the prevalent mascot of the firehouse. And even though times have changed and service dogs come in a variety of breeds now, we wanted to share the history of the Dalmatian as a tribute to this hero.
We’ve heard two main theories behind why these guys are the breed of choice:
- That Dalmatians’ spots are easier to see in smoke/fire
- That the breed has poor hearing (which is true) making them immune to the sirens (not true).
The real reason dates back to when we rode in horse-drawn carriages but has very little to do with fires and everything to do with these guys’ endurance and loyalty. Turns out, these black and white canines would run next to the horses, keeping pace regardless of how fast or far they were going. Soon they began protecting the horses from predators in addition to providing comfort if they got scared. Seeing as horse-drawn carriages were our emergency vehicles back then, the trusted Dalmatians cleared the path for the horses and were able to help inch them closer to the flames without fear, allowing them to better help the firefighters. As an added bonus, the animals kept one another company while waiting for the flames to be extinguished.
These days we have advanced vehicles to help fight fires, as well as other breeds that are specially-trained to assist our heroes in the field, but there are still a few firehouses that maintain the tradition of having a Dalmatian as a mascot, mainly to help teach kids about fire safety and keep the firefighters company throughout their shifts.