Unlike the lazy, couch-hogging fatbodies they tend to be today, dogs used to be required to work for a living. For centuries, “man’s best friend” was more employee than pal, and family dogs were valued much more for their ability to perform difficult (or deadly) tasks than for any snuggling skills. And this winds up explaining a whole lot about dogs that you probably didn’t know.
For instance, why are dachshunds shaped like that? Why do shar-peis have all that extra, loose skin? It’s because humans have bred all sorts of weird superpowers into these animals to help them do our bidding.
The Catahoula leopard dog (the official dog of Louisiana!) looks like a mishmash of what-the-fucks, because that’s basically what it is. In fact, its exact lineage is as murky as bayou swamp water. Some say French settlers interbred their working hounds with red wolves. Others claim the local Native Americans crossed their breeds with Hernando de Soto’s war dogs about 300 years earlier. Whatever their origin, leopard dogs can be a startling sight to the uninitiated, with their “cracked glass” eyes and coats that look like a Jackson Pollock entry in a grooming competition. Even more startling, these dogs have an ability one wouldn’t normally associate with their kind: They can climb trees.
This skill actually wasn’t the result of creative breeders who maybe worked a cat in there somehow; it likely came about naturally. Food was often scarce back in the old days, so often the dogs were left to fend for themselves. Out of necessity, these dogs became incredibly versatile, developing not only the aforementioned tree climbing ability but also webbed feet for swimming and extremely high intelligence.
If you’ve seen a dalmatian, it was almost certainly in one of two settings: a photo or video of one sitting in the cab of a fire truck or the movie 101 Dalmatians. But while it’s true that a large part of Western society probably thinks dalmatians were invented by Disney, this old breed comes from today’s Croatia and was primarily used to accompany stagecoaches. This is because they get along extremely well with horses.
But the reason dalmatians are commonly known as firefighters’ dogs is that, in addition to their good relationship with the horses that used to draw fire carriages, dalmatians aren’t freaking afraid of fires.
“Go get it, boy!”
Back in the days when fires were fought by people in super flammable wooden carriages, someone realized that dalmatians — a breed so old they are literally painted into Egyptian hieroglyphics — could be used to run in front of the coach and clear the way. They even comforted the horses that were afraid of the fire (because horses are pussies), and during the action they also guarded the firefighters’ belongings (because thieves are huge assholes). The invention of cars changed everything, but dalmatians still accompany fire trucks today.
Sure, they can’t hold a hose or unscrew a fire hydrant, but they do hate the shit out of fire