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Get to Know the Rottweiler: Rough, Ready — and Friendly

This onetime cattle dog is black and tan and tough all over, except for where he's just a big softy.

Caroline Coile  |  Sep 29th 2014


He has a reputation as a tough guy — and he is plenty tough when the occasion arises — but the Rottweiler is a dog of many talents: herding, guarding, therapy, obedience, search and rescue, military and police work. Plus he’s a darn good friend!

More interesting things about the Rottweiler:

  • Some people may confuse the Rottweiler with the Doberman Pinscher or Beauceron, but the Rottweiler is much stockier and has small hanging ears; the others usually have longer or cropped ears. They may also be confused with the Bernese Mountain Dog or Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, but the Rottweiler has no white in him.
  • The tail is traditionally docked, and most Rotties in the United States have docked tails. However, European Rottweilers and those from other countries in which tail docking is prohibited have long tails.
  • Occasional long-coated Rottweilers are born. The long coat is the result of two recessive genes. Such dogs cannot be shown in American Kennel Club conformation shows.
  • Occasional red Rottweilers are also born, the result of two recessive genes at the location that determines whether the base color will be black or brown. Such dogs cannot be shown in American Kennel Club conformation shows. Blue and albino Rotties are also disqualified from conformation shows.

  • In ancient Roman times, dogs guarded and drove the cattle that accompanied Roman troops on long marches. Some of these dogs were left behind in southern Germany, where they were valued as cattle drovers.
  • The town of Rottweil (which means red roof) became a center of cattle commerce. The drover dogs herded the cattle to town, protected them, and then guarded the money earned from their sale, and pulled carts of supplies back from town. Some dogs worked as butcher’s helpers, and became known as Rottweiler Metzgerhunds (butcher dogs).

  • A monument to the Rottweiler stands in the town of Rottweil, Germany.
  • When cattle driving was outlawed and dog carts were replaced by donkey carts and railroads in the late 1800s, Rottweilers became unemployed and their numbers dwindled. The breed found a new role as a police dog and war dog during World Wars I and II.
  • The American Kennel Club recognized the Rottweiler as an official breed in 1931.
  • The Rottweiler is in the American Kennel Club Working group.

  • In the early 1990s, the Rottweiler rose to become the second most popular breed in America. The breed then fell dramatically in popularity, but is currently making a comeback. The dog is currently the ninth most popular American Kennel Club breed, up from 15th a decade ago.
  • The Rottweiler has been a target of breed specific legislation in some communities.
  • No Rottweiler has won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club, and only one has won the Working group there (in 2006).
  • Media credits include films The Omen and Lethal Weapon 3; TV series Entourage, Kath and Kim and Human Target; and the children’s book Good Dog, Carl.

  • Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog is a Rottweiler.
  • Owners include Will Smith, Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Carrie Fisher, DMX, Elvira, John Larroquette, Herschel Walker, Curt Schilling, Greg Vaughn, Sid Caesar, Bryant Young, Kenny Norman, Jerry Rice, Ken Griffey Jr., Rashard Lewis, Dedee Pfeiffer, Paris Hilton, Alicia Silverstone, David Beckham, Jay Mohr, Freddie Prinze Jr., Eva Longoria and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

Do you own a Rottweiler? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.