The Dalmatian is a non-sporting dog breed made world famous by its distinctive black or liver-colored spots. This dog breed is the only recognized spotted breed in the world, and it is also one of the oldest continually-existing dog breeds. The origins of the Dalmatian stretch back to at least the 1300s, and evidence suggests that the prototype for this spotted breed may be even older, as dogs remarkably similar to Dalmations appear in the paintings which bedeck Egyptian tombs.
Dalmations are medium-sized, with very muscular bodies and small, floppy ears. In purebred dogs, only black or liver-colored spots are recognized, although other Dalmations may develop spots in varying colors, or patches. These dogs are famously very energetic, which can sometimes lead to problems when they are kept as pets. The breed does have a history of deafness and a tendency to retain uric acid, which can lead to painful joints, although breeders have attempted to minimize these inherited traits.
This breed was developed as a carriage dog, to run alongside carriages. As a result, the dogs are extremely fast, so that they can keep up with horses, and they also have a high level of endurance for long trips. The tradition of keeping a Dalmatian as a carriage dog explains the use of Dalmations as mascots for fire stations: these dogs were originally kept to accompany horse-drawn fire apparatus, and when the horses went, the Dalmations stayed.
Because of their breeding, Dalmations need to live in environments where they get a lot of exercise, along with the opportunity to play. Long daily runs are required, and the use of a leash for control is highly recommended, as a Dalmatian may decide to take off and wander for a few days to work off excess energy. Dalmations are also very playful, and they typically get along well with children and other animals, if they are trained well.
The Dalmatian has a reputation for being difficult to handle and train. In fact, Dalmations do require a firm hand, but they are also extremely sensitive and loyal dogs. An experienced trainer can typically turn out a very well-mannered dog, while inexperienced handlers may inadvertently give their dogs bad habits, or teach their dogs to be afraid of people, in which case they may snap or act out. This breed is not recommended for inexperienced handlers, or people who cannot devote serious time to exercising their dogs.