Wolf and Fox Hunt, Peter Paul Rubens ca 1615-21

Closeup of Rottweiler-like dog in Ruben's famous painting




The origin of the Rottweiler is not a documented record. Once this is recognized, actual history, tempered by reasonable supposition, indicates the likelihood that the Rottweiler is descended from one of the drover dogs indigenous to ancient Rome. This drover dog has been described by various accredited sources to have been 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 as the Rottweiler can be attributed to the ambitions of the Roman Emporers to conquer Europe. Very large armies were required for these expeditions and the logistics of feeding that number of men became a major consideration. No means of refrigeration existed, which meant that meat for the soldiers accompanied the troops "on the hoof". Understandably, the services of a dog capable of keeping the herd intact during the long marches was needed. The above-described "Mastiff type" was admirably suited to this task, and to shoulder the additional responsibility of guarding the supply dumps at night.

Campaigns of the Roman Army varied in scope but the one concerning us took place approximately 74 A.D. Its route was across the Alps, terminating in what is now southern Germany. There is much evidence pointing to the vital role of the fearless Roman drover dog on that trek from Rome to the banks of the Neckar River.

Arae Flaviae, as the new territory was called, had natural advantages of climate, soil and central location. As a consequence, it was designated an Imperial Roman City, aquiring the attendant grandeur of all such Roman cities.

We have no reason to doubt that descendants of the original Roman drover dogs continued to guard the herds thorughout the next two centuries. Circa 260 A.D., the Swabians ousted the Romans from AraeFlaviae, taking over the city. Agriculture and the trading of cattle remained their prime occupations, insuring the further need for the dog.

About 700 A.D. the local duke ordered a Christian church built on the site of the former Roman Baths. Excavations unearthed red tiles of Roman villas. To distinguish the town from others, it was then named das Rote Wil (the red tile) which of course, is recognizable as the derivation of the present name, Rottweil.

Rottweil's dominance as a cultural and trade center increased unabated, and by the mid-12th Century further fame and fortune came to it. An all new town, with elaborate fortifications, was built on the heights above the river. The security thus provided attracted yet-increased commerce in cattle. Butchers concentrated in the area and, inevitably, more dogs were needed to drive the cattle to and from the markets.

The descendants of the Roman drover dog plied their trade without interruption until the middle 19th Century, at which time the driving of cattle was outlawed and, in addition, the donley and the railroad replaced the dog cart.

The Rottweiler Metzgerhund (Butcher dog), as he came to be called, then fell on hard times. His function had been severely curtailed, and in those days dogs earned their keep or there was no reason for their existence. The number of Rottweilers declined so radically that in 1882 the dog show in Heilbronn, Germany, reported one poor example of the breed present.

The annals of Cynology make no further mention of the breed until 1901, when a combined Rottweiler and Leonberger Club was formed. This club was short-lived, but is notable because the first Rottweiler standard appeared under its auspices. It is of value for us to know that the general type advocated has not changed substantially, and the character called for not at all.

In those years, 1901-1907, the Rottweiler again found favor as a police dog. Several clubs were organized: the Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (DRK)-January 13, 1907, and the Internationaler Rottweiler Klub (IRK)-April 26, 1907. Dissension was common until clubs were united August14, 1921 in Wurzburg and it was decided to form the Allgemeiner Deustcher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK). By that time 3,400 Rottweilers had been registered.

Duplications and confusion ended when the ADRK published its first stud book in 1924.

Since its inception, despite the difficulties encountered during and in the aftermath of World War II, the ADRK remianed intact and through its leadership, enlightened, purposeful breeding programs have been promoted both in Germany and abroad.

Perhaps the Rottweiler has departed physically from its Roman ancestor, but assuredly the characteristics for which he was so admired in Roman times have been preserved and are the very attributes for which the Rottweiler is held in such high esteem today.


----Excerpt taken from "The Complete Rottweiler" by Muriel Freeman