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Fire Trivia: Dalmations as Fire Department Mascots


Each week, the Fire Blog will offer a trivia question and answer to boost your fire IQ:


Q:  Why are Dalmations fire department mascots?

Think you know the answer?  Post a comment and look for the answer on Monday!

October 30, 2009



Your answer was spot on!




A:  In the days before firehouses even existed, Dalmatians were bred and trained for the specific purpose of preventing highway robbery. Dalmatians, or "coach dogs," ran alongside of horse-drawn stagecoaches, and acted as a buffers and bodyguards to ward off robbers who attempted to ambush the carriages.


When horse-drawn fire engines arrived on the scene, firefighters naturally chose Dalmatians to assist them, since the breed was accustomed to running long-distances and being around horses. Their bright white coats covered with large black spots made them a highly visible warning sign to bystanders and onlookers.  The dogs ran ahead of, and cleared the path for, fire engines racing towards a fire. They also formed a strong bond with the fire horses and kept them company in the stations.


With technological advancement, horse-drawn fire engines became obsolete, and the need for Dalmatians to clear the way for fire engines no longer existed. Fortunately, firefighters did not fire the gentle Dalmatian from their position in the department. Instead, they honored the Dalmatian by adopting the breed as the official firehouse mascot. 


Look for the next round of Fire Trivia on Friday, November 6, 2009!


November 2, 2009


Add a Comment


Michael Silva

November 1, 2009 at 2:18 PM

To keep the horses moving in the right direction during an emergency response; chasing other dogs away from the horses??? Michael


Donald Porth

November 6, 2009 at 7:15 AM

Dalamatians were first bred in Europe as coach dogs to live with the horses in stables and accompany horses when pulling royal carriages. Their job was to keep them clear and free of other animals. When the American Fire Service began using horses around the 1850s, they found this an appealing idea and adopted Dalamatians as firehouse pets to accompany the horses and help clear the way to emergencies.

While this may have been popular in other areas, not a single photo in the Portland Fire collection shows a Dalamatian during the horse drawn years (1883-1920). There are many mutts and mixed breeds, but never a Dalamatian.



July 7, 2017 at 9:26 AM

This post is partially correct.

The Dalmatian was also a guardian of the feed stored for the horses whether in a stable or fire station. To this day, the presence of a mouse or rat brings out this instinct to kill rodents. Thus, the success of Dalmatians in a relatively new event in AKC trials, the Barn Hunt.

As in "go-to-ground" events for terriers and other varmit hunters, there are stashes of the appropriate targets in a typical barn situation. The animals used as targets are carefully contained in crates, so no one gets harmed.

There are various levels of competition, from having an inexperienced dog simply indicate that he has the instinct to react, to involved and multiple targets that must be found. As usual the dog who finds them all in the shortest time is the winner.

The Dalmatian has a colorful history as a war dog, an assistance dog, teaching school children the way to survive a fire, on and on. More than his stunning beauty, he is a loyal and devoted companion, able to do almost anything asked of him. Thus for the last 50 years, they have enriched my life with their constant presence, asking only to be with the ones they love.

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