Friday, November 20, 2009

The First Firefighters

1920s Firehouse Dogs

Anytime I see a Dalmation, I think of a dog who's a firehouse mascot. They are known for their unique coat and athletic physique. Still, the reason these dogs are so much a part of today's firehouses goes back to their origin.

What makes Dalmations special?

It started in England in the 1700s. Dalmations had come to the country from the country of Croatia, called Dalmatia. Horses are animals that enjoy company. Their owners recognized these dogs for having the ability to get along with horses. The first documented firehouse dog was named Chance who worked for the London Fire Brigade in 1828.

Dalmations are one of the few types of dogs that had the stamina to run distances of 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometers), they seemed a natural fit. Their distinctive bark and acute guard dog ability made them great candidates for clearing the paths for coaches. They also have a keen sense of smell and a high energy drive.

This breed became popular for firefighting because of two key characteristics. They were masterful at keeping horses calm. The sounds of alarm and other noises set horses off yet, having Dalmations around distracted them from the noise and kept them calm. Second, these dogs were great at watching over the horses to ensure that they wouldn't be stolen.

How They Have Evolved

As coaches became firetrucks, the Dalmation as firehouse mascot has endured. There has been many occasions where their loud bark has saved a firefighter's life and their scent tracking abilities have helped firefighters find people through the thick smoke. Dalmations are great at catching rats. Many firehouses had rat problems and they would help keep it under control.

Today, many firehouses still use this breed as their mascot. With the advancement of technology, many of these dogs serve as companions compared to what they did in the olden days. Labrador Retrievers and mixed breeds are now popular choices for firehouse dogs but Dalmations will always be iconic.

There are a couple of books out there that I will be adding to my reading list:
The Firefighter's Best Friend: Lives and Legends of Chicago Firehouse Dogs
Going Home: The Lost Story of Chief the Fire Dog

Other Posts of Interest

K-9 Cops
Dogs In The News: Coming Home

Have any of you had experiences with these dogs?

Well, since it's late, I just want to thank you for stopping in and wish you all a great weekend.

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