Have you ever found yourself staring into the loyal eyes of your dog and wondered where are Rottweilers from? I know I sure have, so I decided to do some research to discover all the ins and outs of Rottweiler history.
So, where are Rottweilers from? The Roman Empire. Rottweilers are considered to be one of the oldest of the herding breeds. Its ancestors date back to the times of the Roman Empire. The breed’s name, however, came along much later and is of German origin.
As one of the most ancient breeds, the Rottweiler has seen a good deal of history over the centuries. This faithful breed’s ancestors were drover dogs for the Romans. They were a mastiff-type dog that was known for its guarding instincts. They even played a key role in the Roman conquest of Europe. In fact, were it not for them, the Western world could look very different today.
Rottweiler Origin: The Early Rottweiler
The present-day Rottie we all know and love is thought to be descended from the Molossus. The Molossus was a mastiff-type dog of the ancient world.
The Romans obtained this old breed from ancient Illyrian and Greek tribes. In their conquest of the Western world, Roman armies traveled in droves across the continent. To sustain themselves, soldiers traveled with herds of cattle.
It was these early Rottweilers that were responsible for keeping tabs on this important Roman food source. These drover dogs kept the herds together and protected them at night. Without these dogs, the soldiers’ source of food would have gone unchecked, jeopardizing the Roman conquest.
Around A.D. 74, Roman armies and their drover dogs crossed into present-day Germany. There, the dogs further supported Roman soldiers during the conquest.
Later, the dogs kept up their hard work of herding and guarding during the time of Roman occupation. When the Romans were finally ousted from the area around 200 years later, several of these dogs were left behind.
The name “Rottweiler” originates from the prosperous town of Rottweil, Germany where many of the dogs had been left behind.
The trading hub, named for its red-tiled roofs, attracted people from great distances. It was there that the “butcher’s dog,” as the breed was then known, continued to perform its original tasks.
As in Roman times, having a butcher’s dog was a necessity.
Once again, the dog worked to drive cattle, this time for trade and for butchering. The dogs also served to guard traders’ money bags, carrying the jingling coins safely on their collars.
With time, the breed was used for working not only cattle, but also pigs, goats, and sheep.
Due to the expensive upkeep of these dogs, they worked in a variety of other functions as well. When herding work was not available, the dogs were used to pull carts and heavy loads.
Due to their guarding instincts, people also used them to guard property and family in addition to herds of animals.
At the time, the country of Germany was struggling to be a unified nation.
This made law enforcement difficult, and as a result, the need for good guard dogs increased. People began to favor the most territorial and protective of this herding breed. This further developed the Rottweiler as a working dog.
The Rottweiler and its ancestors worked for almost a thousand years in the town of Rottweil and the surrounding areas. Yet something was about to come along that would throw them off track:
The railways of the Industrial Revolution.
The Rottweiler’s Decline and Resurgence in Germany
With the invention of railroads in the 1800’s, dogs were no longer needed to drive cattle for transport.
New decrees further outlawed the use of dogs to drive cattle. The rise of automobiles cut out the need for dog-pulled carts. And rising population and new weaponry forced out the predators that Rottweilers had guarded against.
With all these sudden and rapid changes, the Rottweiler population began to decline. It has been claimed that in 1905, only one Rottweiler existed in the whole town of Rottweil.
Fortunately, that one Rottie was not the last of its kind.
A large number of people who simply fancied the breed kept it alive for many years after the Rottweiler was considered obsolete.
Times kept on changing for the Rottweiler.
Urbanization brought on increased crime, and people began again to recognize the value of the breed as a guard dog. Towards the end of the 19th century, German police agencies began looking for a breed for police work.
With its high intelligence, protectiveness, and trainability, the Rottweiler was often chosen as the dog for the job. With a new task to perform, the breed was on the rise once again.
At first, Rottweilers were quite variable in appearance from the present breed. They were smaller, leaner, and came in a wide variety of colors and markings. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that people began to standardize the breed.
Over time, a breed club became established in Germany, known as the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK).
This organization, founded in 1924, worked to agree on a breed standard. They subsequently published a book of Rottweiler pedigrees.
From Germany to the United States
The Rottweiler breed was imported from Germany into the United States in the 1920’s.
From there, the breed went on to be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1931. Despite gaining fairly quick recognition, the breed grew slowly in popularity. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the Rottweiler became a very popular guard dog.
By the 1990’s, the Rottweiler ranked #2 most popular breed in the country.
Due to high demand, however, many disreputable breeders cropped up.
Looking to make a quick buck, these breeders created Rottweilers with no regard for temperament nor quality.
Unfortunately, this gave the breed a bad reputation, and by the end of the 1990’s, Rottweiler populations in the U.S. began to decline significantly.
Fortunately, they are far from the brink of extinction.
On the contrary, Rottweilers remain one of the most popular breeds in the United States. They currently rank near the top 10 among the breeds registered with the AKC.
Despite their long history, the Rottweiler has managed to maintain most of its working abilities.
As in Germany, they are used in the U.S. for police work, herding, and guarding. They also perform well in the fields of search and rescue, service, therapy, and obedience. Most of them simply serve as personal guard and companion dogs.
The AKC requires docked tails for show dogs, and they value a “calm, confident and courageous” disposition. However, they are tolerant of “an aggressive or belligerent attitude toward other dogs.” They do not specify a recommended weight.
The ADRK does not allow docked tails, as Germany outlawed the practice in 1999. They are much more strict about temperament. They seek a dog that is “placid in basic disposition and fond of children, very devoted, obedient, biddable and eager to work.” The ADRK does specify a weight requirement.