The Early History of the Rottweiler
The theories about the
origins of the Rottweiler are many and varied. If one is to trace the history
of the breed given the available literature that has been published one could
not come to a definitive decision as to the exact origins of this breed.
Most cynologists share the
view of the German, Strebel, that the Rottweiler is one of the breeds
originating from the Roman Empire. In ancient times the main task of these dogs
was to hold together and drive forward the herds of cattle that the cattle
dealers and butchers were driving on foot at the time.
The dog that accompanied the
eleventh legion that was to conquer the area we now know as Rottweil in AD74
would not be recognizable as the breed we know today.
Roman legions used different
dogs for different purposes. The large molossian dogs were primarily used to
guard the camps; cattle dogs to drive cattle which accompanied the legions. The
ancestors of the cattle dogs may well have been ancient breeds of dogs, a
mixture of Tibetan Mastiffs ,other large dogs of the same type and the molossian
dog. Of these , interestingly enough, the Tibetan mastiffs were used in their
country of origin to hunt wild boars
Cattle dogs obviously
followed the Roman legions regularly, driving the cattle which was needed to
feed the troops . With Roman expeditions, the dogs traversed the alps to the
north, to that was then the Germanic province.
Cattle dogs remained in the
vicinity of major Roman military routes and later developed into local breeds.
In today's Switzerland, the
old province of Helvetia , the military route passed the St Gothard pass and in
the North split into several routes. One of these went to the north east toward
the Lake Boden to Appenzell. The cattle dogs in this region in to what is
today know as the Appenzeller Sennenhund.
The Western Route across
the Furka Pass went through Haslital up the river Aar to Bern and further north
to Emmental , to the region from where today's Bernese Entelbuchian Mountain
Further north, beyond the
canton of Aargau , through the Schaffhausen and Donausingen , the route
continued to the town of Rottweil, the home of the Rottweiler.
When the Swiss Sennendogs
are compared with the Rottweiler, it is easy to find the similarities. They
resemble each other to such an extent that a common origin can not be ruled
out. The fourth Sennen breed, the Greater Swiss Shepherd dog, also comes from
the same dogs. Cattle dogs were portrayed in art 300 to 400 years ago.
The Flemish painter Peter
Paul Reubens (1577-1640), in his painting "Wolf and the Fox Hunt" , shows a dog
with obvious Rottweiler characteristics biting a wolf in the back. The print
of Peter Paul Reubens painting was scanned from a copy of an ADRK magazine cover
given to me in 1990, see top of page.
In the past cattle dogs
were born as a result of not only accidental but also planned mating between
breed s of different origin. The existence of dogs was determined by their
suitability and usefulness for the purpose for which they were needed. People
needed working dogs, and improved their working qualities which were their only
objective in breeding. Climatic conditions and the local terrain also long
eliminated poorer dogs from breeding, a factor which has also influenced the
development of pure breeds.
People who kept cattle dogs
wanted their dogs to show willingness to work. They also had to have stamina,
sturdiness and strength. The dogs had to be able to adjust to bleak and in many
respects, poor living conditions. They had to be hard and tenacious to succeed
in their work, driving and protecting herds of cattle. These were the dogs that
forced the most ferocious bull in the right direction, frightened the most
hardened bandit with their strength and fury as they defended their master and
cattle, without giving an inch.
Already the Romans demanded
good working qualities from their dogs, and the same requirements later
determined the right of cattle dogs to live and breed. After the Roman cattle
dogs crossed the Alps, they mixed with Northern Strains. The resulting
out-crossing of strains did not caused any damage because the functions of
cattle dogs had become more versatile. The breeds bred for specific, narrowly
defined duties included the Saupecker" A pig Chaser" and the Bullenbiser " Bull
Biter". The later is one of the fore runners of the Boxer.
The cross breeding of
different breeds created an excellent breed in the region of the Lake Boden and
the Main . It combined the best temperamental and physical qualities of the
Roman Cattle Dogs , the local herding dogs, and the broad-chinned British and
Romans used very large and
strong dogs to guard the back gates of their camps in remote and outlying areas.
Today the offspring of these camp dogs probably include the Italian Mastiff, The
Neapolitan Mastiff. The Rottweiler has inherited some of it's fearlessness and
large size from these dogs. The great variation in the size of the Rottweiler
can be explained by the mixed background of the breed. Oversized Rottweilers
are not rare even today.
A versatile dog was quickly
developed out of this mixture of breeds, to become inseparable companion and
helper to butchers and cattle dealers. The dogs main function was to drive and
protect herds of cattle, and to protect and defend the property of it's master.
The dog cam e to be known as the Butchers Dog, Metzgerhund , after it's master.
A steady , very strong and
reliable dog was required . The butchers dog had these qualities furthermore, as
full blooded guard dogs, they were able to protect their master and property on
long trading trips from home. There are reports that the masters could tie
their purses to their dogs collars and this was the safest place for them to
keep their money from robbers and bandits. It was not unusual that these
useful high quality dogs were sought from eager buyers from abroad. In foreign
countries their excellent qualities bought credit to their origin, their
breeding and their home.
They were often called
simply The Rottweil Dogs after their hometown
also known as Area Flaviae by
Rottweilers were not used
only to drive herd and protect cattle but also as draught dogs. It was a usual
sight to see a Rottweiler pulling carts of butchers, bakers, milkmen and country
It is known whether too much
was demanded on the draught dogs or whether they were treated cruelly but the
use of draught dogs was forbidden in Central Europe. The ban still exists in
some countries. In the Nordic countries and the Arctic regions in general,
draught work has always been accepted practice. The prevailing view is that dogs
in fact like draught work and no one has thought of forbidding it.
The transportation of cattle
was gradually taken over by the railways and cattle driving by dogs was
forbidden. Donkeys replaced dogs as draught animals. Consequently lost it's
usefulness as two of it's earlier functions were taken away.
The breed no longer has any
great importance. It's population and geographical area of influence decreased
considerably in 1905 , the city of Rottweil has only had one single Rottweiler
bitch left. The steep decrease in the breed did not lucky for us, lead to it's
extinction. The breeds temperament and character attracted new faithful friends
in all professional and social classes beyond the original cattle dealers.
The Rottweilers long
association and co - co-operation with man has molded the breed in conformation
as well as temperament. It's good traits were simply strengthened when modern
cynology took over. The Rottweiler was by that time an individual breed of it's
own characteristics with the German writer Countess Agar von Hagen , accurately
described as she wrote "This sturdy helper is loyal, full of good humor, it is
kind to children, it makes a definite distinction between service and non
service. In private life the dangerous defender become a gentle lamb. Its wise
eyes which, can gaze with terrorizing effect, can , to a friend, show a sincere
and reliable trustworthy expression. The Rottweiler is not elegant. It is
confidently happy with a deep mind, strength is it's nobility"
New functions were found for
the Rottweiler to demonstrate it's abilities based on its physical qualities,
adaptable nature, and natural intelligence.
When dogs were first
introduced to Police duties in 1901 , the Rottweiler was soon included. After
all the Rottweiler was never anything but man's helper. It's temperament was
molded and refined by work. The nobility of it's character was especially
reflected by it's loyalty and reliability, diligence and intelligence combined
with courage in the face of danger.
A Rottweiler was first shown
at a dog show in in Heilbronn in 1882. The German , Hell, reported that the dog
showing then met modern requirements only to a lesser degree.
In 1905 the Rottweiler was
selected as a "fine dog of unusual breed and irreproachable character" to be
presented to the President of a dog show, organized by the Association of the
Friends of Dogs in Heidelberg, Germany.
Through the stages of
development, described here, the Rottweiler finally became a recognized breed
among the modern breeds of pure bred dogs. Today's cynology defines what was
earlier left to coincidence and nature, its objective is to breed and enhance
its sensibility. Let this be the guideline and ultimate objectives of breeders
in all countries.
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