Rottweiler History

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The Rottweiler's journey through history has been long and rocky. From fierce beginnings that date all the way back to the Roman Empire, to respected police dog at the start of the 20th century.

In this article we trace his paw prints from medieval times to present day.

Rottweiler History - Where Do Rottweilers Come From?

Rottweiler Origin and History

In its heyday, Roman Empire was the most far reaching political and social structure in the western civilization. As large Roman armies marched across Europe, the soldier's food supply in the form of live cattle accompanied them.

Armies required powerful tough drover dogs to care for the herd. Drover dogs are one of the oldest dog breeds and were believed to be of an Asian Mastiff type.

It was their job to guard the herd from predators and  ensure that the cattle didn't stray and kept them moving for long distances. 

These dogs processed a strong guarding instinct. They were also intelligent, rugged, and displayed impressive endurance. Although there is no documented proof, it is believed that these dogs were the breeding stock used to develop the ancestor of the Rottweilers we know today. Dog breeding was one of many things that changed forever during this time.

Where Does The Name Rottweiler Come From

The town of Rottwell, located east of the Black Forest in southern Germany, dates back to the Romans. In the centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire. Drover dogs worked herding cattle and protecting them from rustlers on the way to the market in Rottwell.

The town's central location made it an important market place and trade center for grain and livestock. Farmers and other tradesmen traveled great distances to do business there. The name appears to be derived from the word "rot" for the red tile roofs on many of the buildings and "wil" for the Roman word for villa. The Rottweiler takes its name from the town of Rottwell.

Rottweiler Breed History

Once the cattle were slaughtered, the drover dogs would haul butcher's carts full of meat from the town to town. After the meat was sold, the money purses would be tied around the dogs necks to protect it from thieves. It was during this time these working dogs earned the name Rottweiler Metzgerhund, or the Butcher's Dog of Rottweil.

Numerous local dog breeds who lived around Rottweil at the time were also bred with the drover dogs. Breeds who are likely a part of the Rottweiler's ancestry include the Bernese Mountain Dog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Appenzeller and Entlebucher.

Modern breeders believe that the dogs the Romans introduced here were the ancestors for many of the German breeds.

Rottweiler History In The 19th Century

The Rottweiler was a well utilized working breed until the rise of  the industrial revolution in the mid 19th century. Railroads replaced the need to use dogs to move livestock to market. Cattle herding was outlawed and the Rottweiler was out of work.

As the customary jobs of the breeds were eliminated, the Rottweiler population declined dramatically nearly to the point of extinction.

Modern Rottweiler History

From near extinction to national commendation, dog lovers and skilled breeders can take much of thei credit for the Rottweiler's surge in popularity. At the start of the 20th century, dog breeding was no longer done merely for the purpose of producing a working canine. Breeders who appreciated dogs started to cultivate and advance their favorite breed out of love and the improve the breed standard.

Despite the many functions that the Rottweiler has performed over his long history, he has changed surprisingly little in appearance and temperament since the first German breed standard in 1901.