The “Fireman’s Dog”

When we think of firefighters and fire stations, invariably we think of Dalmatians. The breed has become so iconic in that role as to be a stereotype – but what is the genesis of the Dalmatian as the “fireman’s dog?”

Before fire trucks, there were horse-drawn carriages, and one of the most effective fire fighting tools in the middle of the 18th century was the steam pumper that used steam to force water out of hoses and onto a fire. The fire brigade’s horse-drawn carriages would be loaded up with the machine, the horses hitched up, and the vehicle would scream down the road.

Fire fighters didn’t have time for their horses to spook or to slow down for pedestrians on the road, and that’s where Dalmatians came in. Long known for forming strong bonds with horses, Dalmatians were well suited to keep up alongside horse drawn carriages even at high speeds. A Dalmatian would scare away anything that could spook the horses, while is bark would signal pedestrians on the road that the fire brigade was on its way, and to get the heck out of the way.

While firemen unloaded their equipment and put out fires, the dogs would stay with the cart, protect the belongings and keep the horses calm since they didn’t love being close to a fire. Once back at the station, the Dalmatian controlled vermin. The breed really was indispensable. With the advent of engines, the Dalmatian’s role diminished, but happily, they stayed on as mascots.

Photo of “Abbey” helping out at a firehouse for fire prevention week, by Pamela Bindord Groher


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