The Dalmatian, Facts vs Fiction.


Recently I had the privilege of watching the recent film “A Dogs Purpose”, I loved the movie, yet I have to say that I was very relieved when I realised that Hollywood had decided not to go with a Dalmatian in this particular film. Most are familiar with the various versions of the popular film “101 Dalmatians”, what you may not be familiar with is how this then caused the Dalmatian breed to experience a rapid rise in popularity and how animals were quickly bred for profit and sent to homes that were totally unprepared for and unsuitable for a Dalmatian. The result was a massive increase in poor quality animals from unscrupulous so called ‘breeders’ and many Dals flooding into rescue shelters. As the popularity of the film receded, so to has the bubble in Dalmatian numbers. As a result many Dalmatian enthusiasts around the world have breathed a quiet sigh of relief as people moved on to the next breed sold to them through the media as the latest one to get.

Clearly I am totally and utterly biased.., but Dalmatians have always been my favourite breed of dog and it has been my sheer privilege to have grown up with them and owned one myself over the years. For me it just seems that they are the breed that I connect with and as much as I love dogs in general, Dalmatians just seem to be that one breed of dog that I can just never get away from.

Over the years I have enjoyed studying and researching this breed, I have put together a small list exploring some of the facts and the fiction about the Dalmatian dog breed. Some you may be familiar with and others perhaps not, but read on and enjoy anyway!

#1 Dalmatians don’t “Originate from Croatia”. There is absolutely no proof of that whatsoever. Sites that detail history on dogs that fact check before they print there details will simply tell you that the actual history of the origin of the Dalmatian is unknown. Lazy research simply suggests that this breed must have originated in Dalmatia Croatia because of the name.

#2 Dalmatians are an older continuing breed than most. Some modern breeds can trace their breeding back a few hundred years at best, many less than that. Most of today’s breeds were created for a specific purpose and the breeding standard adjusted and conferred as required. Many breeds have come and gone into extinction in this time and a number more are considered endangered due to low numbers of breeding stock. In terms of Primary Documents we have artists painted works of the Dalmatian dating back from the 16th Century. Spotted dogs appear prior to this but are not guaranteed to be Dalmatian pictures. This picture by Francesco Di Cosimo II dates from the early 16th century and places the Dalmatian in Italy at this time.


#3 Mistakes and false information have been published on the genetic origin of the Dalmatian. The blunt fact is that research is ongoing and the origins of the Dalmatian remain a mystery. An early Genome study suggested a link with the Istrian Hound which has since been dis-proven. Research currently resides around isolating the Genome responsible for the Spots both Black, Liver and the rare Lemon pattern (below) which can occur in some cases. Another study is looking into a possible relationship between the ancient Deer Hounds and the Dalmatian but has yet to prove any such link.


#4 Dalmatians haven’t always been called Dalmatians, some early dog books and papers list the breed as “The Bengal Harrier”.

#5 Like the Basenji, Dalmatians have cat type feet. Like a cat, Dalmatians are also self cleaning.

#6 The Spotted / Patched Great Dane is not a relative of the Dalmatian. His spots are called ‘Harlequin’ and are genetically different to the Dalmatian. (Still is a magnificent looking dog though!!)


#7 English Bull Terriers and the Australian Cattle Dog both were bred with the Dalmatian as a part of their family pedigree.

#8 Along with the Rhodesian Ridgeback, Dalmatians are often placed into the ‘Hound’ category or as an appendix to the Hound category in dog encyclopedias. As discussed there is no evidence that links the Dalmatian to the Hound group. Dals are simply put into this category because its the best possible guess they can come up with.

Owning a Dalmatian for me has been a real privilege to have been associated with such a wonderful breed of dog. I can not really speak highly enough of them. If you are lucky enough that a Dalmatian has found its way into your family, enjoy! You have come across a breed that has a fine heritage and will serve you loyally for many years to come.


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