Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Kim. Kim Wonders, “Why are Dalmatians associated with fire trucks?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Kim!
After a busy day at school, you jump off the school bus and head straight for your bicycle. Before hitting your homework, you're going to get some much-needed exercise by going for a nice ride with your friends.
As you pedal around your neighborhood, your ears suddenly pick up the tell-tale sound of sirens in the distance. You pull over to the side of the street and wait for the emergency vehicles to appear. Within a few minutes, a large red fire truck rolls by on its way to put out a fire.
You ride a couple of blocks over so you can see the fire truck in the distance. Firefighters move to and fro, climbing the fire truck's ladder and pulling the fire hose into position to douse the blaze.
Something seems to be missing, but then you spot it. There, sitting in the cab of the fire truck, is the black-and-white, spotted canine mascot you expected to see. What are we talking about? A Dalmatian, of course!
Today, Dalmatians seem as natural a part of a fire truck as the color red. But why is that? It's not like dogs are particularly good at fighting fires, right? Why would Dalmatians become so closely associated with fire trucks?
The association between Dalmatians and fire trucks dates back well over a century. Even though they're cute mascots today, Dalmatians once played a functional role in the early days before fire trucks had engines.
Long ago, firefighting equipment was pulled to the site of a blaze by horse-drawn carriages. Dalmatians were often used alongside the horses, because they could easily keep pace with the horses over long distances.
Dalmatians would protect the horses from other dogs or animals that might spook the horses as they pulled the fire equipment to the blaze. They also served as the earliest form of a fire truck siren, as their loud barking would warn people in the area that a fire wagon was approaching.
Once at the site of the blaze, Dalmatians helped to distract and calm the horses that would usually be afraid of a fire. They also guarded the firefighters' equipment and belongings from potential thieves.
Once horse-drawn carriages were replaced by automobiles, Dalmatians weren't needed in a functional sense. They had become such loyal companions, however, that many firefighters kept them around for tradition and companionship.