Rottweilers have existed as a distinct breed for so long that their ancestry remains unknown. Given their strong, compact bodies and willingness to work, they probably descended from Mastiff-type dogs. Originally workers in ancient Rome, these dogs acted as "drovers," shuttling and guarding flocks of animals . They moved around the globe, particularly into Europe, with mobile Roman legions who brought the dogs as guards and herders. Given the limited ability to preserve meat and the need to bring live herds of food stock animals on long marches, the dogs provided an invaluable service. At night, they acted as guards from both human and animals threats. After crossing the Alps, the dogs settled largely into southern Germany, where they lived for centuries.

Rottweil derives from "das Rote Wil," meaning red tile, and is the name of the town where red-colored clay was unearthed. This town became a major trade center, particularly for cattle, and the numbers of dogs worked very closely with butchers by pulling carts, driving cows and guarding stock. The dogs even became known as "butcher dogs" for these invaluable services. The breed name certainly derived from the town appellation.

Until the late 19th century, when railroads and other technological innovations limited the need for the dogs' services, they remained at the center of commerce and trade. The breed suffered greatly with the advent of modern transportation, however, and nearly disappeared. Until 1901, few dogs and no breed standard existed. With the development of canine police service, however, Rottweilers gained popularity as guards and police assistants. These jobs rescued them from near extinction. Having also served as war and rescue dogs, they are often trained in Schutzhund today, enabling them to perform many kinds of work.

Given their large, muscular bodies, the modern dogs often have a reputation for ferocity. In truth, a properly bred and trained Rottweiler is highly loyal, obedient and wise. The breed remains extremely popular among dog enthusiasts worldwide.

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