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The origin of the Dalmatian is not quite as obscure as that of many other breeds. There appears to be no valid reason to reject the origin suggested by his name, and, with no arguments against it that bear investigation, and suggestions to the contrary appearing to be mere fancies unsupported by proof, it is reasonable to assume that he is a native of Dalmatia, on the eastern shores of the Gulf of Venice, where, we have been assured, by some of the older writers on dogs, this variety has been domesticated for at least two hundred years. Such a good authority as " Stonehenge " treats this dog as a Pointer; and although it is probable that Dr. Caius may have referred to the Dalmatian when he mentions "a newe kind of dogge, brought out of Fraunce, and they be speckled all over with white and black," the suggestion is strengthened by the probabilities of the case, our intercourse with France, in peace or war, having been constant, and the introduction of dogs from France frequent. On what authority Youatt called him the Great Danish dog is not clear, as the Great Dane is a much larger variety, and in many respects different from our Carriage dog; and his claim to be a Bengalese Harrier seems to rest on the single fact that a spotted dog, resembling our modern Dalmatian, was once brought from Bengal to Spain. That he originally came from Dalmatia his name indicates, and this view seems strengthened by the recorded fact that, for some two centuries, he has been one of the sporting dogs of Italy, a country so near to his reputed native home that we can easily imagine his being familiarised there long before he reached this dog-loving isle. It is impossible with accuracy to determine when the Dalmatian first became known in England. He was a favourite with the wealthy in the last century, and, far into the present, continued to be considered an absolutely indispensable appendage to the elaborately magnificent equipage and stable establishments of the great, to which his highly ornamental appearance added distinction, and his natural habits and love for the horse so well fitted him. A very popular name for the Dalmatian is Plum-pudding Dog.
Bewick gives an engraving of one so perfect in the clearly defined and perfectly arranged spots, that there is not the least doubt art improved on Nature, just as Mr. Baker, in "Dogs of the British Islands," made Captain's spots so very much more distinct, with his pencil, than Dame Nature has, with hers. Either of these engravings might, however, be taken as a model to breed up to as regards colour and markings.
It has been assumed that the Dalmatian possesses an instinctive fondness for the horse; but this alone was not the cause of his being attached to the carriage and stable. More likely was it that his ornamental qualities and his powers of endurance to run at a high rate of speed along the hard high-roads for long distances were the attractions to owners of equipages, and that his liking for horses, and all connected with them, has been fostered by habit, and is now inherited.
"Idstone" says he never knew a dog of the breed that did not readily take to following horse and conveyance, and the writer's experience has been the same, he having possessed many of prize blood that showed marked propensity to follow a carriage, even when not reared among horses. It appears to be a predominating trait in the character of the breed—in fact, their delight. No matter at what hour, a Dalmatian is always ready for the turn out, and does not seem to care how long the run may be; and many a time has the writer had two or three of them following his trap, on pitchdark nights, over rough country roads, without making a mistake.
Some Dalmatians keep close under the carriage in running, so much so that they appear as though chained to the axle; but others, indeed most of them, when fresh and full of life, gallop in front or at the side, showing much dignity as the forerunner of the carriage, and pleasure in association with it. At other times they run close to the horses' heels, but do not snap at them or jump up, barking, in front of their noses, as dogs of other breeds are apt to do under similar circumstances.
As already said, in the early part of the century the Dalmatian was more generally kept than he is now as a part of the stable establishment; and then—and, indeed, within the memory of persons still living—his ears were cropped short, often to a level with the head. Twenty years ago there was evidence that this very handsome appendage to the carriage was slowly regaining its popularity. Now there seems more probability of that occurring, for the breed is being much encouraged at shows, as breeds are that are supported by special clubs.
For the information of those readers who have not bred Dalmatians, it may be said that they are always born pure, or nearly pure, white in colour, and the spots do not usually develop for some months afterwards. The writer's experience is, that those specimens which are slowest in producing their spots turn out best, as the others are often too dark, or too crowded in their markings, and do not make up so well.
In the matter of grooming, a light brushing with a dandy-brush, going over them afterwards with a hound-glove and chamois leather, is all that is required; but, of course, if the coat is very soiled or discoloured, washing may be necessary, when it is best to put them into a loose box, or some such place, with plenty of clean straw, till quite dry. As a general rule, it is not advisable to buy a Dalmatian puppy under six months old, on account of the difficulty about the markings; but if such should be done, then, in a breed where size and bone are of such importance, choose the biggest in the litter, if it promises to have a well-shaped head and body and straight limbs.
Perhaps some anecdotes illustrating the fondness of these dogs for horses and carriages with which they were familiar may be interesting to some readers. The first is related by the well-known naturalist, Jesse.
"The late Mr. Thomas Walker, of Manchester, was the owner of a Dalmatian dog, accustomed to live in the stables with his horses, and to lie in the stall with one in particular, to which he was much attached. The groom who looked after the horses had orders to go on an errand to Stockport, about seven miles' distance, and he rode the horse above mentioned—the favourite companion of the dog—leaving the dog in the stable for fear of his being lost on the road. After the man on horseback had been gone about an hour some one, going into the stable, let the dog out, and he set off at once after his comrade. The groom had finished his business, and was just leaving Stockport for his return journey, when he was much surprised to meet the dog coming at a great pace down the hill into the town, and he seemed rejoiced to meet his friend and companion the horse."
From an old newspaper is taken the following account of a dog long known as the Brighton Coach-dog:—
"For a long period a Dalmatian dog accompanied the only coach which, in 1851, ran between Brighton and London. He belonged to the ostler at the Newcastle Place stables, Edgware Road. He went to the yard when quite young, and the ostler took care of him. Being always amongst horses, he was never happy unless with them, at home or travelling about. His chief delight was to travel up and down with the Brighton coach. He has been known this last spring to travel for eight successive days to and from Brighton, Sunday intervening.
The distance from London to Brighton by way of Henfield, Horsham, Dorking, and Leatherhead, the road which the 'Age' coach travelled, was seventy-four miles. It was with great difficulty he could be kept on the coach, always choosing to run by the side of it; and it was his being placed on the top of the coach, from feelings of humanity on the part of Clarke, the coachman, which cost him his life.
On one occasion the guard placed the dog inside the coach, where there was no passenger, but in a few minutes he was surprised to see him running beside it, having jumped through the glass window. During the early part of the summer he went with a strange coach to Tunbridge Wells. Not liking his berth, he did not return to London with the same conveyance, but found his way across country to Brighton, and went up to London with his favourite coach and horses.
He was well known to many on the road from London to Brighton, and in some places on the journey met with hospitable friends.
Clarke informs us that he would kill a goose in his travels by the roadside, throw it over his back, like a fox, and run for miles; and Clarke had offered a wager that he would accompany the coach between London and Brighton daily for a month, Sundays excepted, and kill a goose by the roadside each day of his travels, provided birds were put within his reach.
On June 24th, 1851, he was placed on the back of the coach, when he jumped off at Henfield, and fell between the wheels, one of which passed over his neck and killed him. He was just five years old. His skin is preserved, and has been stuffed. The 'Brighton Coach-dog' is still to be seen, in the attitude of life, in the bar of a tavern in the Edgware Road, London."
The following story, related by Dibdin in his "Tour through England," shows how a Dalmatian was cured of a troublesome habit:—
One summer he took with him on his wanderings through Cumberland and Scotland a Dalmatian, whose great delight was to chase the sheep, even to the summits of the most rugged steeps. In one of his gambols a black lamb took a fancy to her spotted playfellow. The dog never attempted to injure it, but seemed rather astonished at the lamb's growing familiarity, for it commenced to paw and play with him. At length the shepherd's boy appeared, and a long chase ensued, the boy wishing to reclaim the lamb to its fold, and the creature being as fully determined not to be parted from the dog. Towards the close of day, however, the lamb was firmly secured, but never again did the Dalmatian follow sheep; for, as Dibdin adds in his quaint way, "the unexpected offer of amity to the Dalmatian seemed ever after to operate as a friendly admonition."
The Messrs. Hale, of Brierly Hill and Burton-on-Trent, were the principal winners at early shows, and Mr. Rowland Davies, of Swan Village, West Bromwich, owned some good ones that won at Birmingham and London ; and then followed Mr. R. J. L1. Price's Crib, bred by Mr. Rowland Hale, that took all before him until, in his declining years, he had to give way to Mr. Fawdry's celebrated Captain—a dog considered by some the best coloured of the breed ever seen. Other judges thought Dr. James's Spotted Dick, though not so good in contrast of colour, was superior in formation. Since the foregoing, some of the best specimens that can be
called to mind have been Mr. Fawdry's Treasure and Leaho; Mr. Newby-Wilson's Acrobat, Berolina, Coming Still, Moujik (Fig. 83) (all champions), and Chance; Mr. Mercer's Charles Dickens; Mr. Foster's Flirt; Mrs. H. Carthew's Rugby Beauty; the writer's Lurth, Leah, Leof, Lizette, and Lieutenant; Mrs. Bedwell's Rugby Bridget and Rugby Bath Brick; Dr. Wheeler O'Bryen's Florrie (all black spotted); Mr. Newby-Wilson's Prince IV.; Mr. Herman's Fauntleroy; Mr. Droesse's Doncaster Beauty (the best three liver-spotted specimens seen for very many years, and all champions, who had to win these honours almost always in competition in classes with mixed colours), and Dr. Wheeler