The Rottweiler is a distinguished breed with a long history dating to ancient Rome, where it was originally used to drive and guard cattle for the military. The breed, which is descended from the Mastiff, got its name from the town of Rottweil in Germany, where the Roman Army settled for nearly two hundred years. Highly regarded for their ability to herd and protect, Rottweilers had numerous uses throughout the ages, including driving cattle to market and then guarding the money pouches of traveling butchers at marketplaces. As more modern transportation became popular, the need for Rottweilers diminished until World War I, when the breed’s intelligence, strength, natural guarding instinct, and reliability were put to use. Although the Rottweiler was not recognized by the AKC until 1931, the breed quickly rose to popularity in the US, eventually becoming the top registered dog by the mid-1990’s.
Although the Rottie has a reputation for being aggressive, the breed standard calls for a good specimen of the breed to be placid, devoted, obedient, and eager to work and please. Their guarding and herding instincts are strong, which makes their protective tendencies high and the likelihood to show aggression towards a stranger greater relative to most other breeds. Since this is a working dog, structured exercise and mental stimulation are requirements in order to keep unwanted behaviors such as barking, destruction, or digging at bay.
Rottweilers are very large dogs, weighing up to 132 lbs for males and 106 lbs for females. The coat has two layers, with the outer coat being medium length, dense, and flat, and the soft undercoat present on the neck and thighs. The coat is low maintenance and sheds seasonally, and Rotties have few grooming requirements. There is little room for variation in the Rottweiler’s coloring as it should always be black with less than 10% of the dog’s markings being mahogany or rust-colored. All Rottweiler’s must have a number of defined markings, including above the eyes, on the cheeks, on either side of the snout, and on the chest, legs, toes, and tail.
In general, Rottweilers are a healthy breed. However, as with most purebreds (especially ones of such great size), they are prone to hip dysplasia and joint conditions, including Osteochondritis dissecans which affects the shoulder joints. If purchasing a Rottweiler from a breeder, be sure to ask for certification guaranteeing the puppy’s orthopedic health. The most common cause of premature death in the Rottweiler is osteosarcoma, which is a form of cancer that affects the bones. On average, Rottweilers live 8 – 10 years, which is typical for dogs of their large size.
Although Rottweilers are commonly portrayed as aggressive dogs in the media, particularly in the movie The Omen which drew harsh criticism from breed enthusiasts, the Rottie is largely a family oriented dog that enjoys the presence of both adults and children. Thanks to their many positive qualities, Rottweilers are commonly used for search and rescue, police work, and even as guide dogs for the blind.