Bred in Germany in the 1st century, Rottweilers are descended from German Shepherds crossed with the drover dogs and Mastiffs brought there by Roman soldiers. They were used for herding and guarding cattle, and later for pulling carts and wagons. By the 19th century, they were no longer needed for these jobs, and almost became extinct. Due to various groups, their numbers have risen, and they now enjoy popularity as family and service dogs in many countries. They have a sweet and loyal nature that helped them gain the reputation as excellent companions, while their territorial instincts make them wonderful guard dogs. They do need good socialization and obedience training, or else their dominant tendencies may get out of hand.
It is commonly believed that the Rottweiler evolved around 74 AD when Roman soldiers of the 11th Legion of the Roman Empire settled in the Wurttemberg region of Germany. Here, they crossbred German Shepherds with the Roman drover dogs or Mastiffs they had brought with them to herd cattle and guard the camp, creating a large and strong dog that could control large bulls. This area became known as “das Rote Wil,” which referred to the red roof tiles of the small villas in the town, and has since evolved into Rottweil, giving the breed its name. Originally, Rottweilers were used to drive herds of cattle by day and guard them at night, and were later used to pull carts and wagons, and even hunt bear. By the mid-19th century, the railways were being built, which forced cattle driving to be outlawed. Donkeys became the main draft animal, and the Rottweiler began to fall out of favor. The breed gained popularity with butchers, where they again were used to pull carts of meat, and were given the name “Rottweiler metzgerhund,” or Rottweil butcher dog. The breed’s numbers declined significantly, and the breed was in danger of becoming extinct. In Germany, fans of the breed established the International Club for Leonbergers and Rottweiler Dogs in 1899, and by 1901, had created the first breed standard. Rottweilers began to be used as police dogs, and worked to police and guard during World War I. The American Kennel Club recognized the Rottweiler in 1931, and the dog has grown in popularity in the United States. Today, the breed is still used in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, and Norway as police, customs, guard, and rescue dogs.
This medium to large dog boasts a strong, yet compact frame that is stocky, solid, and slightly longer than tall. Males are generally larger, while females are distinctly feminine, but both sexes display boldness, power, and agility. A medium length, wide skull includes strong jaws, a scissor bite, and a broad muzzle. Almond shaped, dark brown eyes are correctly proportioned, giving an alert expression. Ears are triangular and hang down close to the cheek. A broad chest leads to muscled legs that end in round, compact, well-arched toes. The rear dewclaws are often removed, as is the tail, generally to the first or second vertebrae. The Rottweiler boasts a double coat. The outer coat consists of medium length hair that is flat, coarse, dense, and resistant to water. This visible coat is black with clearly defined markings in brown shades from tan to mahogany. The undercoat is present on the neck and thighs, but does not show through the overcoat, and is generally a lighter color in gray or tan, but can be in black as well.
The shorter coat of the Rottweiler only needs minimal grooming, even in the seasons when it sheds. Weekly brushing with a bristle brush and an occasional wipe down with a damp towel will keep this breed looking its best. Rottweilers do have fast growing nails that need regular trimming to avoid splitting and cracking. Ears and teeth should also be cleaned regularly. This breed needs both mental and physical stimulation, and lots of family time, or else it can become frustrated and bored, and develop very destructive behavior. Rottweilers will benefit from at least two solid daily workouts that can include long walks, playtimes in a fenced-in yard, obedience training, and games with the family. They are people dogs who do not do well alone and should not be left for long periods of time. The Rottweiler is better suited to colder climates, and it can live outdoors with a proper shelter. In hotter temperatures, these dogs can become overheated. This breed is predisposed to conditions that result from growing too quickly, such as panosteitis and osteochondritis dissecans. As such, the diet intake should be monitored while growing, and adding supplemental calcium may not be recommended. This breed is also prone to obesity which can be prevented through regular exercise and diet regulation.