Friday, October 3, 2014

The Dalmatian Dog

The Dalmatian breed originated in Dalmatia

Although its ancestral origins are probably ancient and most likely traced from outside of Europe, the modern breed of dog known as the Dalmatian, with its famous black spots, is believed to have originated in the region of Dalmatia some time in the last few hundred years.

Because it is popular for many Slavs today to lay claim to the history and culture of Dalmatia, and to refer to things of Dalmatian heritage and origins as “Croatian” (simply because the region is today occupied by Croatia), it has become popular for Croats to proclaim the Dalmatian dog as a “Croatian breed” and to market it as a “Croatian dog”. However, in the period in which the dog came into existence, the region of Dalmatia was neither politically, nor culturally, nor ethnically Croatian.

The Dalmatian was first attested in the area of Dalmatia in the 16th century, in the small Italian village of Lussingrande on the island of Lussino, in the Quarnaro Gulf, on an altar in the church of the Madonna degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels), painted by an Italian artist around the year 1600. The breed was prevalent along the Dalmatian coast, and it is believed that they were originally used as guard dogs by the Venetians and inhabitants of Dalmatia. The breed spread to England around the 18th century, where they became associated with coaches and firehouses. It was not until 1955, eight years after the annexation of Dalmatia to Yugoslavia, that the Dalmatian became associated with the Yugoslavs, due to a popular publication of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), and it was not until 1993, after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the creation of the Republic of Croatia, that it became officially recognized as a “Croatian” breed of dog, after initially being rejected.

Unfortunately for Croatia, the idea that the Dalmatian is of “Croatian origins” is yet another case of historical revisionism and shameless marketing propaganda for tourists.

Madonna degli Angeli, Lussingrande
Lussingrande (Dalmatia), c. 1900