The Dalmatian

By | March 16, 2010

The Dalmatian or Coach-Dog.

(The Illustrated Book of the Dog (1881) by Vero Shaw, B. A.)

Dalmatian & Bull Terrier

Bull Terrier. Champion Tarquin The Property of Sir Wm E.H. Verner, Bart. (Late Mr Vero Shaw's )
Dalmatian. Captain. The Property of Mr James Fawdry

In spite of the meagreness, in point of numbers, of the entries in the Dalmatian classes at most shows, few breeds attract more attention, simply we believe on account of the peculiarity of the markings, which are indispensable to success on the bench. It is so seldom that a really well-marked dog is seen following a carriage, that those unacquainted with the few really good ones which appear at shows invariably express great surprise and admiration at the regularity and brilliancy of their colouring. Of the antecedents of the Dalmatian it is extremely hard to speak with certainty, but it appears that the breed has altered but little since it was first illustrated in Bewick’s book on natural history, for in it appears an engraving of a dog who would be able to hold his own in high-class competition in the present day, and whose markings are sufficiently well developed to satisfy the most exacting of judges. Indeed, the almost geometrical exactness with which the spots are represented by Bewick impresses us with the idea that imagination greatly assisted nature in producing what he thought ought to be; his ideal, however exaggerated, is at the same time a standard worth breeding up to in that most important feature in this dog, the brilliancy and regularity of his markings. In former times it was the invariable custom to remove the ears by cropping, as is the case in the present day with Bull and English Terriers ; and in many cases the whole flap of the ear was cut off entirely, exposing the cavity, as was the custom of the time to deal with Pugs, making the dog, to our modern notion, hideous, and laying him open to attacks of inflammation and canker in one of his most delicate organs, which frequently ended in deafness ; but this barbarous and utterly useless practice at last died out, and the dog now appears as nature formed him. One decided argument to be used against the use of the cropping-knife in the case of Dalmatians is that the colour and shape of the ear are matters of some considerable importance. A heavily-marked or badly-formed ear would, of course, tell against a dog in competition, and when these are manipulated by cropping it is impossible to decide how they would have naturally appeared.

A change has come over the opinions of breeders of late as regards which other breed of dog the Dalmatian most resembles; a little time back it was the Bull-terrier, and now it is the modern Pointer which claims the honour. We cannot ourselves see any similarity between the former and. the Dalmatian, as the heads are so totally distinct in shape and character, but our readers can have the opportunity of comparing these two breeds without difficulty, as they appear in the same illustration in this work.

A very general, but erroneous, impression is prevalent that the Dalmatian is a dog which is devoid of intelligence, and incapable of being employed in any other manner than following a carriage, or accompanying its master’s horses at exercise. In its native land it certainly has been used in the field, and though we have never ourselves seen one thus employed, we can give no reasoa for doubting that, if carefully broken, the Dalmatian would be found a useful companion in a day amongst the heather, as from his similarity in shape and build to a large-sized Pointer, he should be well qualified to undergo the fatigue of a hard day’s shooting.

Some few years back, when the Holborn Amphitheatre was open, there was a wonderfully clever troupe of performing dogs amongst the attractions there. Amongst these was a rather good Dalmatian, who was entrusted with the rôle of clown, and it was really surprising to see the intelligence he displayed in burlesquing the tricks of the other members of the troupe. For instance, the Poodles and other dogs would run up to a gate and leap it, then the Dalmatian, apparently influenced by the example of his human prototype, would run round the ring two or three times, barking loudly as if to attract attention, walk slowly up to the gate, and then scramble under it, amidst roars of laughter from the audience, who evidently sympathised with him in his performance. We can also render personal testimony to the general intelligence and docility of the Dalmatian. Although his love for the stable and the companionship of the horse is his constant and ruling passion, and one but rarely developed to the same extent in any other breed, he is capable of showing and exercising in a strong degree personal attachment to his master; and many of them are most excellent guards. As such they are peculiarly adapted to run with the business vans and parcels-delivery carts of our tradesmen, to which they would at once prove an ornament and a protection infinitely superior in both respects to the enormities in dog-flesh they allow their men to carry about with them. The idea — and it is a correct one — is gradually gaining ground that a well-bred and handsome dog is generally superior to mongrels in the execution of the duties they are chosen for, anil one of our objects in writing this book is to strengthen and spread this healthy notion, the practical outcome of which brings credit to the country. We are at a loss to discover any valid reason for the existence of mongrels in a country where the supply of pure-bred dogs of every breed is practically unlimited.

The chief physical characteristic of the breed is the marking. The body of the dog is white, and its head, ears, body, tail, and legs should be covered with round spots about the size of a halfpenny, either black or liver in colour. In many specimens the muzzle and legs are marked with spots of both colours, and this is considered no disfigurement, in fact some judges rather prefer it as giving a gayer appearance to the dog. A very common fault is a black half-face, or a black ear, and these are decided blemishes, as is the lack of spots on the tail; and here it is that many good specimens fail in competition. Another point which should not be lost sight of in judging or buying a Dalmatian is the feet and legs. One requires these dogs for hard work, and it is impossible that a dog possessing weak legs and badly-formed feet can endure the fatigue of following a carriage for several hours a day.

Captain, the property of Mr. J. Fawdry, is the dog we have selected for illustration, as he is indisputably the best specimen now before the public. He made his débút at the third Kennel Club Show held at the Crystal Palace in 1873 as Traviser, winning first prize, and on leaving his then owner and breeder’s (Mr. Chas. Lewis Boyce) kennels, he was re-christened by his new owner, Mr. Oldham of Manchester, Uhlan, his name again being changed to Captain; but his merits were and are too genuine to be affected by a capricious and foolish change of title, and under each he has continued to hold his position as the best Dalmatian of his time, having won almost every prize of importance for which he has since competed. Captain is of illustrious parentage, being of the strain of those old and successful breeders, Mr. R. Hale of Brierley Hill, and Mr. H. Hale of Burton-on-Trent, the former of whom won with Noble, one of Captain’s progenitors, at Birmingham Show in 1862. He is by Boyce’s Carlo out of his Vic,’ by Mr. Hale’s Noble, and his measurements are as follows : Nose to stop, 3 ½ inches; stop to occiput, 5 inches ; length of back, 21 inches ; girth of forearm, 7 inches ; girth of knee, 5 inches ; girth of pastern, 4 ½ inches; height at shoulders, 22 inches; height at elbow, 12 inches; height at loins, 20 inches; height at hock, 5 ½ inches ; length of tail, 12 ½ inches.

Before this dog’s appearance, Mr. R. L. Price of Rhiwlas swept the bench with his champion Crib, who is also of Hale’s blood, but age and infirmity prevented the old hero ever competing with a fair chance of success with Mr. Fawdry’s grand specimen. But he also must, we fear, give way to younger aspirants, being at the time we write in his tenth year; and among the juniors that have as yet come under our notice is Mr. R. LI. Price’s Tom Crib, son of champion Crib. There are, however, a great number of these dogs kept in various parts of the kingdom which are not sent to dog shows, and among them we frequently observe specimens of great worth. Some years ago many excellent Dalmatians were to be met with in that part of the Black Country, as it is called, embracing West Bromwich, Swan Village, Dudley, Brierley Hill, &c. In the town of Banbury, too, we remember to have met with them in fair numbers and good quality, and at Kendal there is generally a good show of them; but nowhere in England are they to be seen in such numbers as in a radius of a few miles from the Crystal Palace, where they are not only numerous, but in many cases much above the average in good points. In a few instances we have noticed fair specimens of the tri-coloured variety, so rarely found good.

The Head of the Dalmatian should be wide and flat, blunt at the muzzle, and tight-lipped ; nose black.

Ears rather small, V-shaped, and very fine. If these are well spotted, great beauty is. added to the dog’s appearance.

Eyes dark, and inclined to be small.

Neck arched and light, tapering on to powerful and sloping shoulders.

Chest deep, and rather broad.

Body round in ribs, and well ribbed up behind.

Fore legs straight and very muscular; plenty of bone is essential in this breed, so as to enable a dog to stand the wear and tear he has to encounter on the hard roads he is compelled to traverse.

Feet round, with the toes arched and well split up; pads round, firm, and elastic.

Hind legs muscular, with clean hocks placed near the ground, as in the Bull-dog.

Tail tapering from the root, and carried as a Pointer’s: this must be well spotted.

Colour and Markings. — Well spotted all over with either black or liver-coloured spots, or both. These should not intermingle, and should be of the size of a sixpence to a halfpenny.

Coat is short, close, and fine.

General Appearance is that of a strong muscular dog, capable of enduring considerable fatigue, and possessing a fair amount of speed.

The scale of points by which these dogs should be judged is as follows: —

General appearance — 10
Colour, markings, and coat — 25
Neck, chest, and body — 5
Head, including ears and eyes — 5
Legs, feet, and tail — 5
Total — 50 value

The Dalmatian

(The Dog Book (1906) by James Watson)

It is passing strange how such a man as Buffon came to name the Dalmatian the Bengal Harrier, and Youatt was as bad when he lumped him in with the Great Dane — the Danish dog, as he was called at that time — as only differing in size. The Dalmatian is a dog of ancient lineage and with as straight a record as almost any dog. He was the hound that came from Dalmatia, and there is little reason to doubt that he was of the same class of hound that the pointer emanated from. Even to this day they have very much in common, in appearance, habits and disposition, and the Dalmatian is by no means a bad shooting dog, when any attention is paid to his training.

Spotted dogs were known in Egypt. The illustration of dogs showing a number of dogs which were received as tribute, should have shown the fore leg of the farther dog in the front row as spotted, but the spots were omitted by the artist who copied the group in line drawing only. Stonehenge points out that quite a good many black-and-white pointers, while not marked so symmetrically as are Dalmatians, could doubtless be much improved in that respect if attention was paid to marking. All ticked dogs are usually heavily marked about the head, and one of the difficulties with the Dalmatian is to avoid heavily marked ears, which are nowadays objected to. In descriptions published earlier in the nineteenth century tan cheeks were spoken of, and within the past thirty years one of the recognised colours, the one placed second in point of merit by Stonehenge and considered very desirable by Dalziel, was the black-spotted dog with liver ticks on the legs. These were by no means uncommon thirty years ago, and were thought equally good if not better than the entirely black spotted. Why the Dalmation Clubs of England should have barred this liver spotting on the legs is not quite plain, for the new fanciers certainly do not know any more about the breed than those who knew them at that period. We remember buying a Dalmatian some twenty-five years ago mainly because she was particularly well spotted on the legs and on the side of the cheeks with a nice liver colour.

We may be wrong in our recollection, but we think the Dalmatian up to that time was a somewhat larger and stronger dog than we have seen of late. They were used far more to accompany carriages in London than can be seen now; and going back thirty-five years still more were to be seen, many cropped closely, not like the bull terrier or Great Dane, but as the pug was, the entire ear being cut off. This practice was not entirely discontinued as late as 1860, though it was going out of fashion rapidly then. Thirty years before that it was spoken of as being discontinued, but we can very well remember seeing many Dalmatians and pugs mutilated in this fashion, and they were by no means so exceptional as to excite comment.

At that time a common name for the Dalmatian was Talbot, but we do not find it in any of the books of that period, nor indeed in any book we have except the lately issued “Twentieth-Century Dog,” to which Mrs. Bedwell contributes some remarks, and says: “The ‘Talbot’ is no pumped-up modern breed.” The Talbot we know was a hound, one of the tracking kind, and of the white varieties known in England the all white was considered excellent; so were the all black. “But if white hounds are spotted with black, experience tells us they are never the best hare hunters. White, and black and white, and grey streaked white are also the most beautiful.” That was what was written several hundred years ago.

It is easy to say now that the Dalmatians are not hounds. True, they are not what we know as hounds, but what did they mean to include or exclude when they said hounds in these bygone days. We know what we mean by a mastiff, but who can say what mastiff meant, even in 1700. For instance, in an old sportsman’s dictionary the description of “Wolf” begins with “a kind of wild mastiff.” At the end of “Bandog” it says, “See Shepherd’s mastiff.” There is neither mastiff nor shepherd’s mastiff in the book, but we know that what we call the smooth collie was then the shepherd’s mastiff. So instead of Talbot being quite out of place as a name for the Dalmatian, it is more than likely that it was the lingering survival of what the dog originally was among persons who did not keep up to date in changes of nomenclature, just as one hears some old timer speak of a “rare bull and terrier.”

That we do not see the Dalmatian figured in old paintings does not imply that he was not an English dog at the time we speak of, for we know that the small beagles were court dogs in Queen Elizabeth’s time, but we have not yet seen a picture of any of them, nor any reference to any such picture. Beagles were playthings, we fancy, and not taken seriously; and these particular spotted hounds were probably looked upon in much the same way, as not of the genuine hunting class, and so bred about the place for their fancy markings, and, having no particular vocation, were taken with carriage parties when that manner of conveyance became more common. Coaches were not in anything like common use in England, even among the wealthy, until well into the seventeenth century.

Who first mentioned the Dalmatian we have not yet found out. Buffon, possibly, about the middle of the eighteenth century. Up to that time English writers on dogs had little to say about any animal not used in sport, and in that case colour was not an essential, though sportsmen and sporting writers had fancies regarding certain colours. Bewick, at the close of the century, included the Dalmatian, or coach dog, in his “History of Quadrupeds,” and, as might be expected, gives an excellent illustration, even to the padlocked brass collar which was always the correct thing for the coach dog. The ears are cropped closely, as was the custom, but Bewick wrote: “We do not admire the cruel practice of depriving the poor animal of its ears, in order to increase its beauty; a practice so general that we do not remember ever to have seen one of these dogs unmutilated in that way.” Bewick’s Dalmatian has a small black patch at the ear and a much larger but lighter one around the eye. The Dalmatian of Reinagle in the “Sportsman’s Repository” is a more racing-built dog than Bewick’s, and was most likely a portrait dog, as the spots run somewhat in colour. It has a china eye and is dark around the eyes, and has its ears cropped, as was the custom. Captain’s Brown’s Dalmatian like all his illustrations, is stiff and wooden, but it has natural ears, and he wrote that the barbarous practice of cropping was then (1829) quickly dying out. The whole ear is black, and there is a mark around the eyes as in the other drawings just named. The description is that he is something between the foxhound and pointer. “His head is more acute than that of the latter, and his ears fully longer; his general colour is white, and his whole body and legs are covered with small, irregular-sized black or reddish-brown spots. The pure breed has tanned cheeks and black ears.” As each of these independent delineators of the Dalmatian shows this tanned eye mark, and two of them the black ear — Reinagle shows a dark rim to the outer edge of the ear and a largish splash close behind, so that the ear was undoubtedly black in its entirety — it is simply one of the oddities of “fancy” for present-day exhibitors to say the Dalmatian must not have black ears, and must have no liver or tan if black spotted. Fully half of the show Dalmatians, notwithstanding the efforts of thirty years’ breeding to get rid of the black ears, still have them, and when you do get a dog with spotted ears he is usually lightly spotted over the body. A very good spotted dog in body is seldom near right in ear, and, if we must speak our mind, we see no objection to a black ear. It is as old as the hills with the breed, and why now assert that it is wrong ? We really must say that we have very little patience with some of these modern improvements, and when we see dogs that would tire at the end of a mile or two, owing to their faulty conformation, getting places over true-made dogs because of a little advantage in spotting, we get very tired of the fads of fancy.

The Dalmatian is primarily a dog that should be able to run all day long, and that not over springy pasture land but on hard roads and paved thoroughfares; therefore he should be as nearly perfect in legs, feet, shoulders and running symmetry as possible. Then, when you have got a dog that can run, the spots should count, but not the spotting first. Take that dog of Reinagle’s; how many of our present-day winners could he not beat, “one down, t’other come on,” following a coach on an all-day run ? Spotting is all well enough if we are merely to consider the Dalmatian as a dog about the premises, as we do a mastiff or St. Bernard, but the moment we undertake to judge him as a coach dog then the principal requirement is the conformation that will enable him to run as a coach dog is supposed to do. Really it is a very difficult thing to do justice in a Dalmatian class, or at least to give satisfaction, for if it is a judge who goes for spotting because it is easier than conformation plus spotting, the owner of a well-made dog feels aggrieved, and, vice versa, the man who must have a dog that can run has a disgruntled exhibitor in the owner of the bad-shouldered, nicely marked dog who has won a whole lot of prizes elsewhere. It is really one of those breeds where the judge should practice the art of self-defence and resort to point judging; then if he does not put the dog satisfactorily it is the dog’s fault and not his.

The life of the Dalmatian in this country as a show dog has been brief. We have always had the Dalmatian, one may say, but only occasionally was one to be seen about New York, almost invariably about some stable. This was only what might be expected, for, whoever brought them from abroad, it is fair to assume that they were mainly coachmen or grooms, and the dogs went with them to the stables. In the early seventies we remember a Dalmatian kept at a livery stable in Charles Street, New York, and this was the first dog we ever saw running between the horses when out with a carriage and pair. The English style, when the dog was not running in advance, was for it to run underneath the carriage and close behind the horses. Bewick, in one of his quaint little tailpieces, shows a coach drawn by a pair, one horse ridden by a postilion, with the dog running by the roadside.

Perhaps the most thoughtless statement regarding the development of the Dalmatian, and repeated up to the latest English dog book, is that he is a production of a cross with the bull terrier, or that the bull terrier has been used to improve the Dalmatian. How a dog that was so thoroughly established in 1800 could be improved by a dog not known at all until 1825 or thereabouts is somewhat beyond our comprehension. By a vivid stretch of the imagination one might hold that the mottling sometimes seen on the skin of the bull terrier was caused by a cross with the Dalmatian, but the bull terrier to help in building up the Dalmatian is ridiculous. To be quite up to date they ought to say it was the Boston terrier, and that with just as much foundation in fact.

In looking up the career of the Dalmatian as a show dog in this country it is somewhat surprising to find New York without classes for the breed for many years after they were provided at many other shows. As far as San Francisco and Los Angeles we have records of winning Dalmatians when New York provided nothing for the breed, and it was not until 1896 that the premier show of the country opened classes for Dalmatians. There was not much support, however, until Doctor Lougest added them to his mastiff and bloodhound kennels, and, with a few passably good dogs, had matters his own way for a year or two. Mr. Martin and Mr. Sergeant Price, of Philadelphia, then took up the breed, and just before the first shows of the present year Mr. J. B. Thomas, Jr., of Simsbury, and Mr. H. T. Peters, of Islip, L. I., decided to add Dalmatians to those they were individually connected with — Russian wolf hounds and beagles — and formed a partnership known as the Windy Valley Kennels. They started in with the greatest enthusiasm, and getting together as many of the fanciers of Dalmatians as possible, a club was organised to foster the breed. This was followed by application for a good classification at the New York Show, and, Mr. Peters being on the show committee of the Westminster Kennel Club, the response was the opening of five classes, for which a surprisingly good entry resulted: eight in puppies, ten in novice, thirteen in limit, eleven in open dogs and nine in open bitches. The successful dogs were for the most part from England, and were beyond question an improvement on what we had been in the habit of seeing at American shows.

The American Dalmatian Club is in good hands, and all that is necessary for its continued success is a continuation of the same spirit of enterprise which has characterised its management during its first year. It has not the easy path to success that so many clubs have had, with a membership ready to hand without the asking, for the admirers and supporters of this breed are by no means numerous and will require to be largely recruited before it is likely to be put on a secure footing, for in all clubs there are always some members who are like the seed that fell on stony ground, and they form a percentage that has to be overcome by hard work on the part of those who can get in new additions. The impetus given the breed by the club is an excellent illustration of what can be accomplished by a specialty club, which goes to work in a sportsmanlike manner.

The standard which we give is that of the English Dalmatian Club, but it is not one to our liking, and not at all suitable for the purpose of letting a novice know what is really wanted. To assist in that piece of education, we will say that in our opinion the Dalmatian thould be built very much upon the lines of a good pointer, but with no more substance than gives the idea that the dog is a strongly built one and capable of travelling easily at a moderately fast pace for a distance. The standard says “heavy in bone,” as if one wanted a mastiff. You do not say heavy in bone in regard to a pointer, but good in bone, meaning that the dog must not look light in that respect; and so with this dog. The head is rather difficult to describe, but the idea can be best conveyed by saying that it must not be that of a good pointer, but more akin to what might be called weak in head in a pointer, with a little less squareness and lip. The eye should be smarter and the expression brighter than that of the pointer, with the ears higher on the head. The standard calls for spotted ears, but we think we have proved our case that the ears are more properly black. Of course they should be of a size to suit the dog and not appear large or heavy. The carriage of the tail is best illustrated in the Reinagle dog, that of Bewick being far too much curled and his dog rather too mastiff-like in its substance. With regard to colour, unless called upon to judge under a particular standard, we should not penalise a dog for black ears, nor for tan spots on the legs or cheeks, for these we know to have been proper Dalmatian colourings from the very first of our information regarding the breed up to the time these English clubs were started, and there is no reason why the change should have been made. Number of spots on a dog has nothing to do with the case; what counts is sharpness of outline, the evenness with which they are distributed and their regularity as to size. We have never seen any Dalmatian, to our mind, the equal of the renowned Captain in the matter of distinctness and regularity of spotting. He was unbeatable in his day, and had tan spots on his legs, which were thought most attractive too. Both Stonehenge and Vero Shaw took Captain as illustrating what a Dalmatian should be. What his weight was we do not know, but his measurements were as follows: nose to stop, 3 ½ inches; stop to occiput, 5 inches; length of back, 21 inches; girth of forearm, 7 inches; girth of knee, 5 inches; girth of pastern, 4 ½ inches; height at shoulders, 22 inches; height at elbow, 12 inches; height at loins, 20 inches; height at hock, 5 ½ inches; length of tail, 12 ½ inches.

Descriptive Particulars

The Dalmatian in many particulars much resembles the pointer, more especially in size, build and outline, though the markings peculiar to this breed are a very important feature and highly valued.

General Appearance. — The Dalmatian should represent a strong, muscular and active dog, symmetrical in outline and free from coarseness and lumber; capable of great endurance, combined with a fair amount of speed.

Head. — Should be of fair length, the skull flat, rather broad between the ears, and moderately well defined at the temples, i. e., exhibiting a moderate amount of stop and not in one straight line from the nose to the occiput bone, as required in a bull terrier. It should be entirely free from wrinkle.

Muzzle. — Should be long and powerful; the lips clean, fitting the jaw moderately close.

Eyes. — Should be set moderately well apart and of medium size, round, bright and sparkling, with an intelligent expression, their colour greatly depending on the markings of the dog. In the black-spotted variety the eyes should be dark (black or dark brown); in the liver-spotted variety they should be light (yellow or light brown).

Rim round the Eyes. — In the black-spotted variety should be black, in the liver-spotted variety, brown — never flesh coloured in either.

Ears. — Should be set on rather high, of moderate size, rather wide at the base and gradually tapering to a rounded point. They should be carried close to the head, be thin and fine in texture, and always spotted, the more profusely the better.

Nose. — In the black-spotted variety should always be black, in the liver-spotted variety, always brown.

Neck and Shoulders. — The neck should be fairly long, nicely arched, light and tapering, and entirely free from throatiness. The shoulders should be moderately oblique, clean and muscular, denoting speed.

Body, Back, Chest and Loins. — The chest should not be too wide but very deep and capacious, ribs moderately well sprung, never rounded like barrel hoops (which would indicate want of speed), the back powerful; loin strong, muscular and slightly arched.

Legs and Feet. — Are of great importance. The fore legs should be perfectly straight, strong and heavy in bone; elbows close to the body. Fore feet round, compact, with well-arched toes (cat foot), and round, tough, elastic pads. In the hind legs the muscles should be clean though well defined; hocks well let down.

Nails. — In the black-spotted variety, black and white.

Tail. — Should not be too long, strong at the insertion and gradually tapering toward the end, free from coarseness. It should not be inserted too low down, but carried with a slight curve upward, and never curled. It should be spotted, the more profusely the better.

Coat. — Should be short, hard, dense and fine, sleek and glossy in appearance, but neither woolly nor silky.

Colour and Markings. — These are most important points. The ground colour in both varieties should be pure white, very decided and not intermixed. The colour of the spots in the black-spotted variety should be black, the deeper and richer the black the better; in the liver-spotted variety they should be brown. The spots should not intermingle but be as round and well defined as possible, the more distinct the better; in size they should be from that of a sixpence to a florin [a cent to a little larger than a quarter-dollar]. The spots on head, face, ears, legs, tail and extremities to be smaller than those on the body.

Weight. — Dogs, 55 pounds; bitches, 50 pounds.

Scale or Points

Head and eyes — 10
Ears — 5
Neck and shoulders — 10
Body, back, chest and loins — 10
Legs and feet — 15
Coat — 5
Colour and markings — 30
Tail — 5
Size, symmetry, etc — 10
Total — 100