Officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1931
The Roman Empire was the organizing force behind Western Europe’s formative years, and dog breeding was among the many pursuits forever altered by the Roman genius for practical problem solving.
When conquering Roman legions marched to far-flung corners of the world, they brought their herds with them as food on the hoof. The army required tough, durable dogs to move and guard the herd. Utilizing Asian mastiff types as breeding stock, the Romans developed the distant ancestor of today’s Rottweiler. For centuries the legions struggled to contain Germanic tribes, the so-called barbarian hoards, massed on the Empire’s northern borders. The dogs the Romans brought to these areas became foundation stock for many German breeds.
In the centuries after the empire’s collapse, the Roman drover dogs found work in the cattle town of Rottweil. It was here, moving herds from pasture to market and protecting all concerned from bandits and rustlers along the way, that they earned the name Rottweiler Metzgerhund, or Butcher’s Dog of Rottweil.
The Rottie’s career in livestock ended with the rise of the railroad cattle cars in the 1800s. They found new work as police dogs, personal protectors, and all-around blue-collar dogs capable of performing various heavy-duty tasks. Rotties were among the first guide dogs for the blind, and in more recent times they distinguished themselves as search-and-rescue workers at such disaster sites as Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center.
Considering the many roles the breed has played during its long history, it is remarkable that the Butcher’s Dog has changed little in form and temper since its first German breed standard was drawn up in 1901.