I keep seeing references to the Disney movie 101 Dalmations [sic]. Apparently it’s reissued every so often to an eager audience, and it’s frequently spelled with –ions at the end just like “Intimations of Immortality" or a “consummation devoutly to be wished.”
But the name of the breed comes from Dalmatia, a region along the Adriatic Sea in what is now Croatia. You might as well speak of 101 Italions or 101 Albanions or 101 Brazilions as of 101 Dalmations.
During the onset of the Iraqi war, the United States was trying hard to cobble together a multi-national force with troops from other countries, who were understandably reluctant to send their forces off to fight a trumped-up war. Many nations turned down the request to send so much as a bugler, but one day the Secretary of Defense reported excitedly to the President: “We have a commitment for a hundred Brazilian troops.” “Great!” replied the President. Then, after pausing and furrowing his brow, he asked, “How many is a brazillion?”
Dalmatians have been used as guard dogs in the region for which they are named since the eighteenth century, but it’s not certain that they originated there.
They can be seen in paintings set in other parts of Europe as early as the fourteenth century, so perhaps the Disney movie should properly be called 101 Liechtensteiners, but that doesn’t have the same ring as Dalmatians.
According to the infallible Wikipedia, the name Dalmatia derives from a local tribe called the Dalmatae, which stems from the Illyrian word delme, which means “sheep.” Dalmatia also gave its name to the dalmatic, a knee-length tunic worn as a liturgical and coronation vestment. It was originally a Byzantine garment that was adopted by Emperor Paul I of the Russian Empire.
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou dislikes Dalmatians (the dogs, not the people, whom he finds most congenial, especially after a few slugs of slivovitz), but then he also dislikes cocker spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Jack Russell terriers, German shepherds, Bouvier de Flandres, dachshunds, Shih Tzus, pit bulls, Weimaraners, poodles, and, most especially, Chihuahuas. He’s not hesitant, however, to unleash his own doggerel:
Man’s best friend? That’s what they say,
But I think a dog is a danger
Who is eager to lunge at my throat.
No, man’s best friend had best stay away,
I’d rather that he’d be a stranger.
For a pet, just give me a goat.