The history of the Rottweiler is not a documented record. There is the likelihood that the Rottweiler is descended from drover dogs indigenous to ancient Rome. These drover dogs were described as being of the Mastiff type, with great intelligence, rugged, dependable, willing to work and with a strong guarding instinct. The transition from Roman herding dog to the dog we know today can be attributed to the ambitious Roman Emperors wanting to conquer Europe. As very large armies were required for these expeditions, the logistics of feeding such a large number became a major factor. As there was no form of refrigeration, it meant that the meat accompanied the armies “on the hoof”. This meant a dog capable of keeping the herd together during the long marches was needed. The “Mastiff type” was well suited to this task as well as shouldering the extra responsibility of guarding the supply dumps at night.
As sites of civilization arose along the legions’ roads, so did various types of dogs. One such road led to an army encampment on the Meckar River in what became the state of Swabia in Southern Germany. It flourished as a trading center and was eventually called Rottweil (Rote Wil-“red tiled roofs”). Here, the breed became known as the Rottweiler. “Lore” has it that the butcher’s of Rottweil depended on their dogs to herd cattle to market; then once the cattle were slaughtered, the dogs pulled the butcher’s carts. When the meat was sold, the money purses were tied around the dogs’ necks to keep the money safe from bandits.
The Rottweiler was kept busy until the mid-19th century when railroads replaced droving for getting livestock to market and using dogs as draft animals was outlawed (due partially to abuses). As the Rottweiler’s customary jobs were eliminated due to industrial progress, he fell on hard times. Thanks to the breeds’ traits of endurance, strength, loyalty and intelligence, he found a new niche as a guard dog and the Rottweiler’s talents were put to new uses with the police and military. It was toward suitability for those tasks that the modern Rottweiler was developed. In 1910 the Rottweiler was officially recognized by the German Police Dog Association as the fourth police dog breed. The period from 1882 to 1910 saw the breed go from obscurity to national acclaim.
The large leap for Rottweilers is assumably due to some very hard work and skillful breeding by their owners and breeders. The Rottweiler was fortunate that the “dog fancier”, a person who loved the breed for its own sake, had arrived on the scene. Dog breeding was no longer done solely for the purpose of producing a working animal. Breeders set out to preserve their chosen breed in the form in which it had been handed down to them, while at the same time they also set out to refine and improve it when they felt this was necessary. One of the milestones was being accepted as a working police dog. To have achieved this success, the comparatively nondescript and unknown dog of the late 1800’s must have changed considerably. In 1905 the Rottweiler was selected as a “fine dog of unusual breed and irreproachable character” to be presented to the President of a dog show, organized by the Association of the Friends of Dogs in Heidelberg, Germany. We assume from this that the breed was recognized and settled, more or less, in its present form, though not well known. It is also reasonably safe to assume that the Rottweiler was already showing the exemplary character that we have grown to admire today.
Source: Rottweiler Club of Canada; Photos: Google images/sources unknown