Dalmatians: Fire dogs!
The image is iconic: a carriage drawn by horses, with fire fighters on board accompanied by a black and white spotted dog. Yep, those are Dalmatians! The Dalmatian is a very old breed from Croatia, specifically from an area called Dalmatia.
Why is the Dalmatian used as a fire dog?
The Dalmatian has a long and rich history of being a guard dog and later as a carriage dog. The Dalmatian would accompany a carriage as it traveled around, running either alongside the horses or underneath one of the axels. When firefighters used to travel to fires on horse drawn carriages, the Dalmatian transitioned from its job as a carriage escort to that of fire dog! The Dalmatians were trained to run in front of the carriage, clearing the way and guiding the firefighters and horses to the fires. In addition to their carriage assistance duties, Dalmatians were also intense guard dogs. The horses and fire equipment was very expensive, so the dogs were also used as guard dogs for the fire houses. No one wanted to tangle with a Dalmatian.
Their role in fire houses today
Even though today Dalmatians are not used in fire houses as they originally were intended, they are still employed as mascots and ambassadors. Sometimes the dogs are used to teach fire safety to the public. They are a big hit with kids. This is most common in the United States. The Dalmatian also accompanies another iconic carriage team: the Anheuser-Busch dog. Yep, the mascot for Budweiser is a spotted Dalmatian! Knowing that Dalmatians tend to be suspicious of strangers, the dogs that are used in fire houses or for Anheuser-Busch are likely heavily socialized as puppies and selected for their friendly dispositions. Their spotted coats makes them unique distinctive!