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11 Spotted Facts About Dalmatians

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You've probably seen this spotted dog on the back of a fire truck or in the movies, but how much do you really know about the unusual breed?

1. The origins are mysterious.

Like many other old breeds, the origins of the Dalmatian are hard to pin down. Some people believe the dogs come from Dalmatia, a region in modern day Croatia. The canines were dogs of war and used as sentinels. Others believe the dogs are as old as the ancient Egyptians—paintings of spotted dogs running by chariots can be found in the tombs. 

2. They have many monikers. 

The old breed has taken on a lot of names over the years, including the English Coach Dog, the Carriage Dog, the Plum Pudding Dog, the Fire House Dog, and the Spotted Dick. 

3. Dalmatians are all-purpose dogs.

The breed is very versatile and has been used for many purposes over the years. They're talented sporting dogs, and are used as birding dogs, trail hounds, boar hunters, and retrievers. What's more, thanks to an excellent memory and interesting coat, the pooches made good performers on the stage and in the circus. 

4. But they’re best known as firedogs.

Dalmatians have many talents, but they’re possibly best known for their skills as coaching dogs. The canines get along famously with horses, making them the ideal dog to run alongside carriages. The helpful Dals warded off stray dogs, guarded the coach at stops, and most importantly, kept the horses calm.

This job eventually translated to the firehouse, where Dalmatians would run behind fire trucks. Horses were skittish around fire, but the Dals kept them composed. Their distinct features also make them a great mascot, so you can still find the dogs riding in modern fire trucks today. As a bonus, they’re also excellent ratters and keep firehouses pest-free. 

5. Budweiser still uses them. 

Keeping with the tradition of coach dogs, Budweiser keeps three Dalmatians to travel with the Clydesdale hitches. The breed has been associated with the brewery since 1950, when a Dal was introduced as the Budweiser Clydesdales' mascot. The current Budweiser dogs are named Chip, Brewer, and Clyde.

6. George Washington loved them. 

The first president was an avid dog fan and was known to be an early breeder of Dals. His coach dog was a Dalmatian named Madame Moose

7. Spots can be found everywhere.  

Dalmatians are distinct for their piebald pattern. Usually these spots are black or brown, but sometimes they can be lemon, blue, or brindle. Every Dal is different, but most have these marks all over their body. If you open up a Dal's mouth, you can even find spots in their mouth

8. But none when they’re born. 

Despite being covered in spots in adulthood, puppies are born snow white. Pups generally don’t grow their trademark spots until about four weeks. This news might come as a shock as it directly negates what the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians might have suggested. 

9. 101 Dalmatians did some damage to the breed. 

Besides giving viewers an inaccurate idea of what the puppies looked like, the movie encouraged a lot of people to go out and buy one of the dogs they saw on the big screen. Unfortunately, the Dalmatian boom led to a lot of Dals in shelters. Families found that the breed shed a lot and did not always get along with children. The pups need a lot of attention and training, and many adopters were not ready for the responsibility. As a result, many Dals found themselves without a home.

Increased demand for the breed also led to a lot of amateur breeders and puppy mills flooding the market with dogs with health problems and aggressive behavior. Shelters urged people not to adopt dogs without first doing their research. 

10. Deafness is a problem. 

If your Dal seems to be ignoring you, it could just be because it can’t hear you. Around 30 percent of all Dalmatians are inflicted with deafness as a result of their spotted markings. Breeding dogs with this coat can lead to a lack of mature melanocytes (melanin producing cells) in the inner ear. Without these, dogs can become hard of hearing. Dogs with larger patches of black are less likely to be deaf. 

11. Dalmatians are willful and independent. 

Dalmatians are very intelligent and, as a result, very independent dogs. Without the proper training, they can be willful and stubborn. The demanding dogs need a lot of attention and exercise. Don’t get a Dal unless you’re ready to wake up early and go for long walks. 

All images courtesy of iStock

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Focus Features
25 Shelter Dogs Who Made It Big
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Focus Features

If you’ve been thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your brood and are deciding whether a shelter dog is right for you, consider this: Some of history’s most amazing pooches—from four-legged movie stars to heroic rescue dogs—were found in animal shelters. In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, here are 25 shelter dogs who made it big.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]


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