• Croatian Trails

101 Dalmatians - The Origin

The Dalmatian is the most know and the most popular Croatian dog breed. The beautiful spotted dog became Croatia's national symbol long before Disney released 101 Dalmatians. However, after the movie was released, there was a global surge of interest for this breed.

If you ask any foreigner about Croatia, most people will know about Dubrovnik, the tie and Dalmatians! These adorable pups helped promote Croatia more than any tourist campaign, however, like with all popularity, there was also a negative impact for the breed. When the famous puppy was no longer a puppy, people left them on the street or in shelters.

Their unique spots make them stand out from other breeds and they are still a very popular family dog!


The Dalmatian had many names throughout history and many purposes - the hunter, protector, retriever, fighter. The oldest name we could find was Hound of Dubrovnik after which came Dalmatian Hunting Dog. At the first dog shows in England, they were registered as "a guard dog for the Dalmatian Border Troops". The first official document by Thomas Bewick from 1792. shows the Dalmatian's description and drawing with a note that the dog originates from Dalmatia. In 1955. the Dalmatian was officially recognised as the breed we know today.

Legend says that the Dalmatian and the first appearance of a tie were closely connected. During the 30 year long battle with the Turks in the 17th century, women would send off their men to battle with a tie around their neck as a token of their love. The warriors, accompanied by an unusually spotted dog marched into battle, with their fearless companions by their side. From this time, the decorative fabric around their necks is recognised and later named "kravata" or tie in English. And their brave dogs? They will become Dalmatians, the symbol of Croatia.


The Dalmatian is considered to be one of the oldest breeds in the world. It is assumed that they are the descendants of the Egyptian Greyhound like dog whose drawings were found in the pharaoh's tombs. In Louvre, there is a piece of artwork dating back to 2000 B.C. that portrays a white spotted dog. Another clue to their ancestors is a papyrus that contained a war carriage of an Egyptian soldier who was accompanied by a spotted dog.

The Dalmatian arrived in Croatia through Middle East and Greece and landed in the Illyrian Provence of Dalmatia where the local tribe, Delmati, breaded them millennials ago. Another piece of art, dating back to the 2nd century B.C. shows Silvanus, a Roman tutelary deity of woods and field with the Dalmatian by his side.

During the Middle Ages, they were mostly used as hounds or to accompany the noble carriages. Dutch travellers described the dog in their journals. The most notable documents on the breed and their characteristics can be found in Dakovo's diocese. A document from 1526. writes about the Battle of Mohács against the Turks where each soldier had 1 or 2 Dalmatians that followed them into battle. Most of the dogs lost their lives but the ones that survived were taken by the Turks and ended up in England and Czechoslovakia - this is why some consider the breed to be Turkish.

In the 17th and 18th century, travellers from the Venetian Republic describe the guards on the borders of the Venetian Dalmatia and Turkish Empire who stood watch with their Dalmatians.


The oldest known image of the Dalmatian dog was found in a church on the island of Veli Losinj dating back to the 16th century. In the centre of the altar is a painting of Saint Rok with a dog that is white with dark brown spots and dark brown floppy ears.

Because of their beautiful coat, the Dalmatian attracted attention wherever he went. They became popular across Europe in a short amount of time thanks to the travelling theatre troops and even Gypsies who's culture pays great respect to spotted animals. Travelling with sailors from Dubrovnik, they soon found themselves all over the world. Like the noblemen from Middle Ages in Croatia, the English aristocrats also used them as their protectors and guards. The reason why they are often found side by side with carriages is their incredible connection with horses which is one of the main characteristics of the breed.

In the United States, the Dalmatian is known as the dog of Saint Florian, the protector of firefighters. They were used to run in front of the fire brigade and bark at people who would move out of the way. When cars were invented, the dogs stayed on as mascots for the fire stations.

Today, the Dalmatian is mostly used as a family pet rather than a working dog. They love being around people and are very good with kids as they are always eager to play. The Dalmatian is renowned for its beauty and wins many dog shows around the world.

He is a loyal companion as he has been for several thousand years.