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Brief History And Origin Of Dalmatian Dog Breed



The Name Dalmatian is formed by adding a final N to the word Dalmatia which is a name of an ancient country now a province of Yugoslavia. Many people believe that the Dalmatian originated in Dalmatia and that is how the breed got the name. Many canine authorities place the origin of the dog somewhere around the Adriatic, and while there is no absolute proof, this is probably where the forerunners of the breed emanated or developed dalmatian are also called as Firehouse Dog Breed.

While it isn’t literally true that there are no Dalmatians in Dalmatia it is almost a proven fact. Very few of these dogs exist in what is supposed to be their native land. Allegedly these are British imports or descendants of imports. And it is quite possible that the dogs did originate in that part of the world.

It is almost a fact that the breed did come from somewhere near the Mediterranean or the Adriatic. There are various little clues pointing to this as the original area: for instance, the discovery of the statue of a spotted dog in the Mycenea ruins mentioned in the Penguin Book of Lost Civilizations. This factor indicates that a dog similar in outline to our Dalmatian, and also spotted, did exist at a very early time in this area, but perhaps it was a spotted mastiff.

Some of the theories concerning the origin of the Dalmatian can bring endless discussions. For instance the theory that the Dalmatian was the product of breeding the Istrian pointer with the Harlequin Great Dane can evoke near shouting matches. It is well known that the Dane was not always as large a dog as we know him today.

Origin Of Dalmatian

You refer to the Dalmatian as the “lesser Danish dogge.” No less a breeder of Harlequin Danes than Antonia Pratt has reported that sometimes litters of Harls are born with rounded spots rather than the desired in Danes torn patches. The origin of dalmatian starts from the Dalmatia Region Of Croatia, however, was rejected vociferously by the Great Dane Club of America as being the worst sort of canard. It is up to you to decide if it could possibly be the origin of the Dalmatian.

Origin Of Dalmatian

As to why or how the breed was called Dalmatian, no one really knows. There are a number of theories, most of them quite logical, and anyone may believe any one of them. They are, however, still theories, not facts. Some of them have been around for a long while. A young poet, Jurij Dalmatin (1546-1589) who lived in Serbia, another province of Yugoslavia, received some dogs from the Bohemian Duchess Alena Meziricska Lomnice in 1573.

In a letter to the, Duchess, Dalmatin wrote, “The interest in my Turkish-dogs grows in all Serbia I have presented several tens of them dogs are so popular that they call them by my name Dalmatin. This new name is already more and more ingrained. ” At the time Dalmatin wrote his letter about his “Turkish” dogs the entire area was under the domination of Turkey. The Turks overran the Balkans and pushed on into Europe where they were finally stopped by the Viennese in 1683. The Turkish rule of Bulgaria and other Balkan areas ended in 1827.

His name, Jurij, is another form of George and Dalmatin is obviously a place name, probably Dalmatia. In those years people did not have surnames. They had a first name and then something to distinguish them from all others with the same first name, either son of someone, or from a city, a village, a country, or whatever. So Jurij, living in Serbia, was named Dalmatin because he came from that area. The word for the breed in Italy is Dalmatina.

Certain theories as to why the dogs were called Dalmatians are so much conversation. For instance we have read that the dogs were named Dalmatians because the spots resembled the bubbles in the volcanic rock found along the coast of Dalmatia. There is no volcanic rock along the coast of Dalmatia.

The mountains are all layered limestone. It is true that spotty vegetation on some of the limestone mountains might give one the idea of spots but that is too far-fetched. The barrenness of the hills of Dalmatia is not a quirk of nature by any means. During the time of the struggle between Hungary and Venice for domination of this land the forests, which at one time covered the hills, were destroyed to build ships.

After Venetian dominance was established, the hacking away at the forests continued to such an extent that timbers intended to be used in building ships were left at the water’s edge to rot. Reforestation is not the easiest thing to accomplish, besides which the peasants knew very little about such things.

The constant winds off the Adriatic have resulted in scrubby looking forest and vegetation all along the Dalmatian coast. If these hills resemble the spotted dogs, it is because one’s imagination wills them to do so. This seems, on the surface, a far-fetched reason for naming the breed Dalmatian.

Dalmatian History

It would have been more realistic to name zebras Dalmatians. That they were called coach dogs long before they became known as Dalmatians is true. According to the authority William Arkwright, the hounds were first in the development of the dog as we now know it. Then through refinement in breeding, man developed the pointer. Hunting dogs were important to put meat on the table. Arkwright also places the origins of the hounds and pointers somewhere around the Mediterranean.

He favors Spain as most writing indicates that hounds and pointers were used there very early on. Topsell wrote in his Historie of Four-footed Beastes that there was a new variety of hunting dog found in Italy that became very popular among the Italians, “especially the white and yellow-spotted dogs.” This history, published in 1607, was based mainly on other authorities. Dalmatians do not really exist in Dalmatia today.

In 1930 the late Mr. Bozo Banac introduced Dalmatians to the country. He brought them to his home near Dubrovnik from England in 1930. Locally they were referred to as the “English Dogs.” About 25 years later someone visiting the lovely countryside discovered the last Dalmatian in Dubrovnik.

We also visited the island of Korcula but found no dogs there. Actually, there are several serious breeders in Yugoslavia. They are located in Zagreb and Zupanja and they imported their breeding stock. Dalmatia is a region of Croatia, one of the six socialist republics of Yugoslavia. Zagreb and Zupanja are situated in Northern Croatia.

After the Trojan War Achilles’ son, Pyrrhus Neoptolemos, settled in Epirus where he either conquered or married into the family of an eponymous hero named Molossus. Molossus gave his name to the famous Molossian hounds of antiquity, which are mentioned in many classical works in Greek and Latin.

These were a mastiff type of dog. Since Epirus, according to classical atlases, was the area immediately south of the Keraunian Mountains, directly east of Corfu and the Roman Dalmatia was north of these mountains, there is every possibility that these dogs were taken into Dalmatia by the ancients, and caused historical confusion.

They were used as shepherd dogs and as dogs of war, guarding the mountains for their masters. Harry Glover, the British authority, suggests that the Dal may have been confused with a spotted Mastiff, a larger more powerful dog. His suggestion of the mastiff-type lends credence to the possibility that the spotted dog of Dalmatia is not a Dal at all but an Epirote or Molossian mastiff. The earliest known pictures portraying dogs which could be an original form of Dalmatians can be found in a fresco (circa 1360) in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

This church is under the Dominican Order of Friar Preachers whose habits are white with a black over cape. We shall never forget the smile on the face of the Dominican priest in the Sacristy of that church when we asked where we could find the frescoes of the Spanish Chapel with the Dalmatians.

His face lit up and he said, quite proudly, “Domini Canes!” The dog of God. In the early days the Church and the State were the institutions which controlled mens’ lives. The Church came to be represented in painting and literature by various allegorical figures. We find symbolism in art throughout history.

Somewhere along the line the black and white dog became the main representative of the Church. This grew out of the Inquisition, that fearful state of affairs which held everyone in its thrall during the fifteenth century and even into the sixteenth century. The order of the Dominicans was in charge of the Inquisition. So paintings, posters and other art forms used the Dal to represent the Dominican order.

This has been considered an artistic and ecclesiastical joke through the years. During the Cromwell years (1649-1660) in England, spotted dogs were used in antipapal tracts and leaflets as a symbol of Roman rule of the British church. Political woodcuts of that period can be found in the British Museum showing this, which tends to establish the breed in Italy at that time.

There is a mosaic frieze at the church of Saint Francis, in Lima, Peru, which shows a Dalmatian. Based on the information provided by a tour guide and sent on by Benito Vila, the tile for the frieze was shipped from Spain to Peru in the late sixteenth century. It was not erected until 1620, because the Viceroy had difficulty in locating anyone qualified to do the work.

another instance of the white dog with black markings being used in an ecclesiastical setting, but this time in the western hemisphere. It is very difficult to say when the word Dalmatian actually came into use to describe the spotted dog we know. According to the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, the word was first used in 1824.

We were able to prove the Oxford Dictionary in error as Thomas Bewick, in his first edition of 1790, shows a drawing of the dog and a description of the dog and it is clearly labeled “The Dalmatian or Coach Dog.” Probably the first printed use in English of “Dalmatian” to designate our breed was in 1780 when a translation of Buffon’s Natural History was published in Scotland.

There is no mention of the Dal in The Boke of St. Albans (1480) and nothing in any of the published works on dogs written by Gesner (1587). Dr. Caius, who wrote DeCanis Britannicus Libellus in 1560, later translated by Abraham Fleming in 1576 and called Of English Dogs, has a doubtful reference. Edward Topsell published a two-volume Historie of Fourfooted Beastes in 1607 basing most of his knowledge on the Gesner and Caius and Fleming books.

He did, however, state that the Italians were very pleased with a new variety of hunting dogs, “especially white and yellow-spotted dogs.” The famous Dutch painter, Gerard Borch, painted a scene from The Congress of Munster in 1647. A detail of this painting shows the Dauphin of France with his Dalmatian.

The typical tri-color found in the old prints and paintings of the Dal is shown in a painting by Pieter Boel (1632-1647), which hangs in the Kennel Club in Clarges St., London. The Hunting Party, by Jan Fyt (1609-1661), includes a heavily marked Dalmatian type along with several Spaniels and a Greyhound.

Hunting Dogs and their Attendants, painted by Francesco Castiglioni proba-bly about 1700, shows a Dalmatian trying to be a lap-dog, something those of us who have had the breed will understand completely. Throughout Europe we can find paintings with Dalmatians in them painted later than those mentioned above.

In the 1800’s writers mentioned the dog frequently. Buffon, the great French naturalist, in 1772 proclaimed the Dal as the Harrier of Bengal. He offered no proof of his statement. When we visited the Kennel Club in London, Commander Williams, upon finding out that we were doing research on the origins of the breed, stated, “Ours came from India!” Many theories prevail on how the dog could have migrated from the Indian area, through Europe and so to England. Could the Gypsies have brought the dogs to Europe and to England? The Gypsies, forced to migrate to the Middle East as early as the fifth century, established settlements in the Balkans and Eastern Europe before the end of the fourteenth century.

came from the Upper Himalayas of north India. where they had been part of a loose federation of nomadic tribes. In Western Europe, Gypsy groups continued a nomadic life, their ranks being increased by migration from the Balkans as the Turks moved in late in the fifteenth century. They were hunters.

They wandered through Europe as blacksmiths, horse traders and entertainers (musicians and fortune tellers). Their true origin was unknown by medieval society. Whether they furthered the development of the Dalmatian because of the influence of their religious beliefs is pure speculation.

White angels and black devils were featured in their doctrine of war between light and dark. There is a considerable bibliography of material on the migrations of the gypsies, but it does not get into dogs. Perhaps the dogs migrated with the Roman legions? Caesar and Pompey fought their civil wars in the area now known as Yugoslavia.

All that impedimenta one reads about the Gallic wars were not necessarily merely machines of war but included complete households. There were camp followers in Caesar’s day, too, and perhaps spotted dogs. Another theory concerning the name of the Dalmatian is an ecclesiastical one.

There is a vestment, a tunic-type garment, beltiess but with sleeves. Early ones were made of soft white wool found on sheep from the mountains of Dalmatia. The garment has ornamental bands running from the shoulders to the lower hem. Many of these can be seen in the Museums of the Vatican.

As the church progressed in importance in the world the Dalmatic, as this vestment is called, became more ornate. The ornamental bands became ermine. Weaving has always been an occupation in Illyria and Dalmatia. At one time the weavers of Illyria turned out the uniforms for the Roman Army as well as fabric for civilian use. Writing in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West says, “No matter what bestial tricks history might be playing, there were always looms at work in Illyria.” Tying the Dalmatic vestment to the area of Illyria and Dalmatia is quite simple.

In the Capitoline Museum in Rome, there is a statue of Augustus holding a shield which has a figure of an Illyrian wearing a Dalmatic. This is the first knowledge of the garment. But during the third century the Pope dictated a rule that all martyrs would be buried in this type of garment.

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