Make a list of the world’s 101 Most Recognizable Dog Breeds and one type of canine will likely top it.

Photo by Bradlien
Photo by Carlos Estrada
Disney's 101 Dalmatians

A white coat punctuated by black dots can mean only one type of pupper. Adored by firefighters and bizarrely coveted by Disney villains, the Dalmatian is one of the planet’s most distinctive creatures. Though typically black and white, Dalmatians can also feature brown, blue (greyish), brindle, orange, lemon, or multi-colored Rorschach palettes.

Originally bred to be hunting companions, Dalmatians evolved into carriage dogs, used to protect the occupants of horse-drawn cars from banditry and to clear the way for the equines. The dogs were well suited to this occupation, as they had a calming effect on horses. When firefighters used horse-drawn engines for transportation, Dalmatians were natural vanguards, clearing the road for their horse buddies. The dogs became synonymous with fire stations. As motorized vehicles replaced horses, Dalmatians remained as mascots.

But what’s the deal with that name?

Like a slew of other breeds – Irish Setters, Yorkshire Terriers, Siberian Huskies, Welsh Corgis, Bernese Mountain Dogs, for example – Dalmatians are actually named for a place!

The historic region of Dalmatia - graphic by DIREKTOR

The dog moniker stems from the historical region called Dalmatia.

The territory comprises the southern, coastal region of Croatia. This thin strip stretches from the Adriatic Sea in the west to the Bosnia-Herzegovina border in the east, which just happens to sit along a mountain range called the Dinaric Alps.

The name of the region derives from an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, contemporaries of the ancient Greeks and Thracians. The capital city was called Delminium. Later, the area became a Roman province, before the Croats showed up in the 6th century.

Today, the region is not an official division of Croatia, but retains the status of one of four historical regions, alongside Central Croatia, Slavonia, and Istria. The second largest city in Croatia – Split –  resides within Dalmatia.

The Roman province of Dalmatia - graphic by Milenioscuro
The old center of the city of Split - photo by Ballota

Besides the rich history of antiquity and the origination of a famous dog breed, Dalmatia is packed with natural beauty. The region features one of our favorite types of geographic layout: a quick transition from ocean to mountain. Dalmatia might be the Acadia of the Adriatic Sea.

Along its coast sit 79 gorgeous islands, from Rab in the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south, in addition to more than 500 islets. The largest island is the 153-square-mile Brač, which manages to nestle gorgeous, geometric beaches next to pleasing rocky rises. The Golden Horn looks particularly resplendent.

The Golden Horn on Brač - photo by Szabolcs Emich
Beach on Brač during the summer - photo by Nick Savchenko

The islands are not alone in oceanic beauty; the coast proper brims with incredible scenes. Water and rock mingle with medieval fortresses, ancient towns, and towering cliffs.

Medieval fortresses Lovrijenac & Bokar - photo by Edwardwexler
Hidden beach in southern Dalmatia - photo by Juraj Patekar
Panoramic view of Cavtat - photo by Ketone16

As Dalmatia moves from the sea, the mountains become even more prominent.

The Dinaric Alps begin in Italy and move southward 401 miles through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Albania. The highest peaks of the range are south of Dalmatia in Albania and Kosovo, the fantastically named Accursed Mountains. However, the range is named for Mount Dinara, which rests along the Dalmatian border of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Also known as Sinjal, Dinara rises 6,276 feet (1,913 meters) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Croatia. The crag’s prominence above the rest of the Dalmatian plain is so striking that it became the name not only of the peak but also a 100-mile subrange and the entire Dinarides.

Northern reaches of the 100-mile Dinara range - photo by Zoran Knez & Dražen Radujkov
The Dinara massif - photo by Inatan
Summiting Dinara - photo by TheBestViewpoints

Sail gorgeous seas, lounge on unique beaches, ascend glorious mountains, explore the historical origins of an iconic dog breed. You can’t seem to go wrong by visiting Dalmatia. At the very least, you can add the country of origin for the stars of 101 Dalmations to your trivia arsenal.

Further Reading and Exploration

Dalmatia – Find Croatia

Central Dalmatia – The official site of the Tourist Board Split-Dalmatia County

Dalmatia – Encyclopedia Britannica

The history of Dalmatians in the fire service – FireRescue1

Dinara – SummitPost

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