Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dalmation Trivia

This is why you might “spot” a Dalmatian at a fire station.
Today, it’s more a matter of tradition, but in the early days of firefighting, the Dalmatian served an important purpose.
In the 1800s, fire engines were horse-driven carriages. Unfortunately, horses and other equipment found in a fire station were prime targets for thieves at that time, especially in some of the poorer urban areas (which is where the majority of fires occurred). Some firefighters tried to combat thievery by sleeping alongside their steeds, but sometimes, when a man is exhausted from battling a blaze, nothing will wake him up. Eventually, the solution became clear: a watchdog.
And not just any watchdog. You see, horses are not solitary animals. They prefer the companionship of some other animal, whether it be another horse, a dog, a goat or even a chicken. Left alone too long, they grow restless and neurotic. Dalmatians, it was discovered, formed an amazingly close bond with horses once they were introduced. They also became quite protective and possessive of their equine friends, so it became impossible for anyone to try to spirit away a horse under cover of the night. In fact, the spotted pooches were also used by stagecoach drivers for the same purpose, and were often colloquially called “coach dogs.”

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