These dogs can either be fierce guard dogs or cuddly companions, depending on their upbringing. Learn more about this loyal canine.
1. Rottweilers might be from Rome ...
It's widely believed that these sturdy dogs are descendants of drover dogs in Ancient Rome. The mastiff-like dogs were used to pull carts, herd animals, and guard homes. Because of the need to control large animals like bulls, the dogs were bred to be strong and robust.
2. … but they were perfected in Germany.
When Roman armies headed to Germany on their way to conquer Europe, they brought the Rottweiler's ancestors with them. Because there were no refrigerators at the time, the soldiers traveled with their cattle, rather than slaughter the cows for meat before the journey. And naturally, they needed assistance keeping their cattle in line. The Rottweiler’s ancestors were the perfect dogs for the job thanks to their endurance and strength. Along the way, the dogs were also used to guard and carry supplies.
Eventually, in around 73 CE, the army stopped in what's now the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The town that sprung up there was filled with villas with red tiled roofs. The quaint settlement was known as das Rote Wil—rot for the red tiles, and wil from the Roman word for "villa." Later, the town became known as Rottweil. The Roman dogs flourished there as herding and guard dogs. They eventually interbred with other local dogs to create the modern day Rottweiler.
3. Rottweilers almost went extinct.
Toward the middle of the 19th century, paved roads and railroads started to change how people brought livestock to market. Herding dogs were no longer needed when transporting cattle, so Rottweilers found themselves out of a job. The numbers of Rotties continued to dwindle and clubs disappeared.
The breed almost vanished entirely, but a small group of breeders fought hard to keep them around. In the 20th century, the breed found a new purpose serving in the military and on police forces. Rottweilers were introduced to the United States in 1910 where their popularity continued to grow. Today, the Rottweiler is the eighth most popular breed in the United States.
4. There are two ways to pronounce the name.
The Rottweiler is a German breed, so if you want to pronounce it the German way, it’s rott-vile-er. Of course, if you’re in the United States, rott-why-ler is also acceptable.
5. Keep Rottweilers away from anything fragile.
Thanks to the Rottie’s history as a herder, the dog has a habit of bumping into people, animals, and things when it wants them to fall in line. While trained Rottweilers are gentle, breeders don’t recommend the dogs for households with young children or the elderly.
6. They only have one kind of marking.
Rottweilers are always black with the same brown markings on their chest, face, and paws. According to the American Kennel Club, the brown spots can come in three different variations: Rust, tan, and mahogany.
7. German Rottweilers are slightly different from American ones.
German clubs have different breed standards than the AKC's. German Rotties tend to be a little larger and have long tails. In the U.S., breeders still favor the docked tail, although the trend is beginning to shift toward keeping the tail intact.
8. They have a strong jaw.
9. Training is a must.
Just like people, every Rottweiler is different. It’s very important to train your dog early and diligently to ensure a gentle pet. It's a powerful breed; Rotties need to be taught when to use that power and when to stand down. The dogs are very intelligent and eager to please, so training is fairly easy compared to the training needed for more aloof breeds.
10. Rottweilers are loyal.
Rottweilers have been bred as guard dogs, so they're known to form strong bonds with their owners. They're so loyal, they'll often follow their family members from room to room. These loving dogs generally do not do well spending too much time by themselves and enjoy the company of others.
A version of this story originally ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2022.