1670s, "of or pertaining to Dalmatia" (q.v.); as a noun, 1580s, "inhabitant of Dalmatia."
The breed of spotted dogs so called from 1893, short for Dalmatian dog (1810), presumably named for Dalmatia, but dog breeders argue over whether there is a Croatian ancestry for the breed, which seems to be represented in Egyptian bas-reliefs and Hellenic friezes. They were popular in early 1800s as carriage dogs, trotting alongside carriages and guarding the vehicles in owner's absence (the alternative name coach-dog is attested from 1792). Even fire departments nowadays tend to spell it *Dalmation.
THE use to which this beautiful and shewy breed is applied, being so universally known both in Town and Country, needs a bare mention: how long it has been the fashion to keep these dogs, as attendants of the Coach Horse Stable, and as precursors to the Carriage, as if to clear the way and announce its approach, does not appear in our common books of reference on the subject; but the practice may probably be a century or two old, and was doubtless derived from Continental usage. ["The Sportsman's Repository," London, 1831]
mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]
Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.
To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]