In a column about the Dalmatian, Martha Adams coined the name, Polka Dot Pointer, because the breed has the same general body shape as other bird dog types from same general area of Mitteleuropa, namely, the Vizsla, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Weimaraner, but “updated with a jazzy paint job.”
It’s not as simple as all that, however, because the Dalmatian, a very old breed, doesn’t seem to fit into any specific major dog breed grouping, and has at different times been classified as a sporting breed, scenthound, sighthound, guard dog, and even herding dog (and don’t scoff, look at this!).
No matter the group, the Dalmatian will stand out for it unique spotting.
That spotted coat is the result of the interaction of several loci. While the encoded function of these genes isn’t fully understood, it’s known that piebald, ticking, and flecking loci interact to produce the Dalmatian’s classic pigmented spots. Spotting and ticking, in fact, are both believed to be determined by the same gene. D. Phillip Sponenberg and Max Rothschild further found that an additional gene for flecking is what makes Dalmatian spots distinct on a white background.
Interestingly, the same gene that causes distinctive urine properties in the Dalmatian may also be one of three genes that contribute to the breed’s distinctive spotting pattern, something suggested by veterinary geneticist, Danika Bannasch and her coauthors, Noa Safra, Nili Karmi, Amy Young, Professor Emeritus Gerald Ling, and Robert H. Schaible of Purdue University in 2008. They postulated that SLC2A9 affects the size of the eumelanin (dark brown or black pigment) spots, making them larger than the “ticks” in other breeds. In 2008, the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory in UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine began offering DNA testing that allowed breeders to eliminate the trait of excreting both urate and allantoin in their urine as end products of purine metabolism. An overview of most genetic tests for the breed can be seen here.
Image: Dalmatian by LA Shepherd