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]