Why Are Dalmatians Called Fire Dogs?
Dalmatians are called fire dogs because they are mascots in many firehouses. This spotted hound is also known as the “coach dog.” Dalmatians were once used in England as guard dogs for mail coaches. Dalmatians also joined the fire service in England, where they not only served as mascots, raced along with the fire horses, but killed rats and other vermin around the firehouse.
When a fire alarm sounded, the Dalmatians would run out of the firehouse, barking to let bystanders know that they should get out of the way because the firefighters’ wagon would soon come roaring by. Once the wagon was out on the street, the Dalmatians would run beside it. They ran along with the horses and stood guard over the vehicle to ensure that no one stole the firefighter’s belongings, equipment or horses.
The brave, loyal dogs also served an important purpose once the wagon approached a fire. Horses are afraid of fire, and the Dalmatians’ presence could distract and comfort the horses as they pulled the wagon closer to a blaze.
The tradition was carried over to the United States, where time was that every firehouse had a fire dog. One firehouse that continues to have a Dalmatian is Fire Department New York City’s Ladder 20. Their 10-year-old dog is named Twenty, and can sometimes be spotted sticking her head out of the window as the department’s fire truck races through the streets of Manhattan.