The origin of the Rottweiler is not a documented record. Once this is
recognized, actual history tempered by reasonable supposition indicates
the likelihood he is descended from one of the drover dogs indigenous
to ancient Rome. This drover dog has been described by various
accredited sources as having been of the Mastiff-type-a dependable,
rugged, willing worker, possessed of great intelligence, and a strong
The transition from Roman herding dog to the dog we know today as the
Rottweiler can be attributed to the ambitions of the Roman Emperors 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 the
meat for the soldiers had to accompany the troops "on the hoof." The
services of a dog capable of keeping the herd intact during the long
march were needed. The above-described "Mastiff-type" was admirably
suited to both that job and the additional responsibility of guarding
the supply dumps at night.
Campaigns of the Roman army varied in scope, but the one of concern
to us took place approximately A.D. 74. Its route was across the Alps
terminating in what is now southern Germany. Arae Flaviae, as the new
territory was called, had natural advantages of climate, soil, and
central location. There is much evidence pointing to the vital role of
the fearless Roman drover dog on this trek from Rome to the banks of the
We have no reason to doubt that descendants of the original Roman
drover dogs continued to guard the herds through the next two centuries.
Circa A.D. 260 the Swabians ousted the Romans from Arae Flaviae, taking
over the city. Agriculture and the trading of cattle remained their
prime occupations, insuring the further need for the dogs.
About A.D. 700 the local Duke ordered a Christian church built on the
site of the former Roman baths. Excavations unearthed the 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 Rottweil.
Rottweil's dominance as a cultural and trade center increased
unabated, and in the middle of the 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 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 of the 19th century, at which time the
driving of cattle was outlawed; in addition, the donkey 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 just one poor example of the
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 shortlived but 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 these years (1901-07) the Rottweiler again found favor as a police
dog. Several clubs were organized as dissension was most common until
1921 when it was agreed to form the Allegmeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub
(ADRK). By that time, 3,400 Rottweilers had been registered by three or
four clubs. 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 has remained intact and
through its leadership enlightened, purposeful breeding programs have
been promoted both in Germany and abroad.