Posts Tagged ‘101 Dalmatians’


Dalmatians are a breed that drives me crazy in many ways.

One of them is I don’t believe for a second that they are from Croatia, Ancient Greece or Egypt, or Neptune. All of the images of supposed Dalmatians from Croatia that date from several centuries ago are very unconvincing. The paintings I’ve seen show dogs that would clearly be called proto-Great Danes, Istrian hounds, or perhaps something akin to a Croatian podengo.

My own take is that these dogs are nothing more than aberrant pointer or pointer-setter crosses that became fashionable running along coaches of country gentlemen in England during the middle part of the eighteenth century.

I don’t have much evidence for this theory, other than the genetic studies on Dalmatians have nested them within the pointing gun dog breeds.

We have no smoking guns in the form of pedigrees or kennel records.

Now, if the dubious breed origins story about this breed weren’t  enough, there is another myth that has long existed about Dalmatians.

Dalmatians, of course, are famous in several Disney movies, including the original animated 101 Dalmatians film, its live action version from 1996, and the live action version’s sequel.

These films were said to have caused a massive boom in Dalmatian popularity. AKC registrations skyrocketed. Puppy millers made great fortunes selling the puppies to families who wanted them.

And then when the families discovered that Dalmatians are very high energy dogs and some of them are somewhat aggressive and are inappropriate as family dogs, the shelters filled with lots of poorly bred and poorly socialized dogs.

But did Disney really deserve the blame?

Well, Chris, over the BorderWars blog, has decided to test this hypothesis empirically.

Using the time in which Disney released its films and AKC registration statistics, Chris tried to figure out if any correlation existed between the release of these movies and a rise or fall in Dalmatian statistics.

He found no correlation.

Despite the prevalence of claims that Hollywood drives fads in dog breed popularity, there’s little evidence that this is true. In fact, actual data sharply contradicts the unthinking mantra that popular movies make for popular breeds. The converse is the more likely scenario: already popular dogs get featured in moves. Hollywood mostly follows trends, rarely does it set them.

The often repeated conventional wisdom is that Dalmatian puppy popularity spiked following releases of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians: from the original in 1961 through the re-releases in 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991; and the live action film in 1996 and its sequel in 2000 with a TV show between them.

The registration data just doesn’t support the idea that every time Disney comes out with a Dalmatian movie the breed experiences a popularity boom as we see just as many declines in popularity or stable runs of popularity as we see increases. If Disney is a factor at all, it’s clearly contingent on a other factors coming together that simply aren’t present during most of their releases.

So Disney gets blamed for a whole series of welfare issues that it didn’t likely cause at all.

To be honest with you, having known a few Dalmatians over the years, I know they aren’t what I like in a dog.

Even if they do look like snow leopard pointers.

Which I think is a better name for them.

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