Rottweiler Ancestry

The German police had a tremendous impact on the development of the modern-day Rottweiler.
Jupiterimages/ Images

Many words accurately describe the noble Rottweiler. Powerful, calm, courageous, intelligent, devoted, protective and family-oriented not only capture his most prominent traits, but are the reasons Rottweilers are the second-most popular breed in America. He is adaptable, hard-working and easily recognizable by his massive, muscular body, broad head and black coloring with tan markings.

The Noble Roman

Little is documented about the earliest years of Rottweiler history, but most doggy historians agree he was once a Roman warrior originally known as the drover dog. Rugged, intelligent and hard-working with a strong guarding instinct, the drover dog traveled with the Roman armies, herding and guarding the cattle that were brought along to feed the warriors. Even in ancient Rome, his value as a working dog and guard dog had already been discovered and put to good use.

Immigrating to Germany

Around 74 A.D., the drover dogs accompanied the Eleventh Claudian Legion of the Roman army as they pushed across the Alps into what is now southern Germany, but was then known as Arae Flaviae. Settling along the Neckar River, the Romans remained until they were ousted in 260 A.D. by the Swabians. The primary trades of the Swabians were agriculture and cattle trading, so the dogs remained gainfully employed even as their keepers retreated back over the mountains.

Finding a Name

Around 700 A.D., a Christian church was commissioned by the local duke to be built on the site of the former Roman baths. When the ground was turned back, the excavations revealed red roof tiles from the old Roman structures. The town was called das Rote Wil, meaning "the red tile." Eventually the name of the town evolved into Rottweil, which remains today.

Nearing Extinction

The area surrounding Rottweil was rich in cattle trade. The devoted drover dog accompanied the butchers to and from market, driving cattle or pulling carts loaded with beef and guarding the butcher and his money. Eventually the dogs were called the Rottweiler Metzgerhund, or butcher dog. Over time his name was shortened to Rottweiler. Cattle herding was finally outlawed in Rottweil and the dog, his work replaced by the donkey and the railroad, all but disappeared. Only one poor example of the dog was located to represent his breed at the 1882 dog show in Heilbronn, Germany.

Making a Comeback

In 1901, a combined Rottweiler and Leonberger club formed and wrote the first Rottweiler breed standard. In the early 1900s, the dog had found work among the ranks of the German police and his popularity grew. In 1905, a Rottweiler was presented to the president of a dog show in Heidelberg, Germany, where he was described as "a fine dog of unusual breed and irreproachable character." He gained further recognition from the German Police Dog Association in 1910, where he was named the fourth breed to serve the police. By 1921, several individual Rottweiler clubs came together and created the Allegmeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub. The ADRK published its first stud book in 1924 and remains the governing body of the breed today.