When most people think of the Rottweiler dog breed, they picture a sturdy, tall, muscular dog with floppy ears and a two-tone coat.
It can be a surprise to learn that there is actually more than one type, or sub-type if you will, in the Rottweiler dog breed.
This is a controversial topic and many Rottweiler breeders and owners do not see eye to eye about whether there are different types and, if so, how many types of Rottweiler exist.
In this article, we are going to walk you through the origin and history of the Rottweiler breed and explain how different breed lines came to be.
We will also take a much closer look at the controversy so you can understand where different breeders are coming from. Let’s start by investigating the very beginning of the popular modern Rottweiler dog breed.
Watch a Brief History of the Rottweiler Dog Breed
This short, interesting YouTube video gives you a fascinating visual and narrated history of how the ancient Rottweiler dog breed evolved and transitioned to become a popular modern pet dog and working canine.
Rottweilers Are a Truly Ancient Working Dog Breed
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, the Rottweiler dog breed has been traced all the way back to the time of the ancient Roman legions.
These mighty, sturdy dogs are descended from truly ancient Asian mastiffs, giant working dogs that specialized as drovers – herding dogs in charge of managing giant herds of livestock over long distances and often harsh weather and terrain.
As the Roman legions patrolled their territories and expanded their holdings, they needed to bring their food (livestock) with them. The earliest Rottweilers served as drovers, guarding cattle and sheep and often the soldiers as well.
From the start the Rottweiler dog breed had the same basic traits they do today:
- Strong herding and guarding instincts.
- Strong prey drive, strong protective tendencies.
- Strong bonds with their people.
- Tireless work ethic.
- Immense courage even when faced with large predators (human or animal).
In fact, Rottweiler dogs were also entrusted to carry the money bags around their necks after the livestock went to the market and was sold. Thieves were much less likely to try to steal the money if they had to go through a Rottweiler to get it!
This earned them the name “butcher’s dog of Rottweil” after the German cattle town where many of these dogs lived and worked.
Making the Transition to the Modern Rottweiler Breed
So how did the Rottweiler dog make the leap from ancient Roman drover dog to modern companion canine and family pet?
This is a very interesting story!
In fact, Rottweilers as a breed nearly died out altogether as modern transportation and technology replaced them in the traditional jobs they had been bred to do.
But as King Rottweilers breeder and kennel explains, when World War I broke out in the early 20th century, the breed got a fresh start serving as military and police dogs.
Rottweilers also served as drovers, guard dogs, herding dogs, messenger dogs, search and rescue dogs, scent work dogs, and personal protection dogs. During the war, this breed got a much wider exposure in Europe and America.
In America today, the Rottweiler is currently the eighth most popular purebred companion canine (out of 195 registered purebred dog breeds).
The Controversy Over Different Types of Rottweilers and What You Need to Know
Now that you have a working knowledge of the Rottweiler’s history and lineage, you probably also have a pretty good idea of the three main types of Rottweilers: Roman, German, and American.
To further complicate the situation, some breeders and owners say there are even more Rottweiler types, including European, Serbian, and so-called “rare” Rottweilers.
But is it really fair or even accurate to say that the Rottweiler dog breed has been split up into three or even more different types? This is exactly what the controversy is about.
So let’s take a look at each named type (or sub-type) of the Rottweiler and see whether they are sufficiently different to justify being called different types.
The Roman Rottweiler is the original Rottweiler dog breed from which all other types have descended.
As you saw in the short video you watched earlier, these earliest examples of the modern Rottweiler dog breed were quite large and lean with long legs and a long tail.
The main distinction today between the German Rottweiler and the American Rottweiler is the dog’s birthplace.
This is why you may find some breeders who specialize in German Rottweilers breeding these dogs in America, for example.
The breeding stock (male and female parent dogs) were imported from Germany. With a German birthplace, the puppies are considered to be from the German Rottweiler breed line.
German Rottweilers are often said to be somewhat larger, stockier, and heavier than their American cousins. These dogs always have natural (long) tails as German breeders do not practice tail docking. A docked tail is considered a serious fault.
As Karma’s Rottweilers breeder and kennel points out, the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub (ADRK) maintains its own breed standard, which aligns with that of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in Belgium.
The American Rottweiler dog is a dog that was born in America, plain and simple. But in America, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is the governing body that oversees the official breed standard.
In America, it is customary to dock (cut off) the tails of Rottweilers and this is specified in the American breed standard. This is done in puppyhood and often when a dog is fixed (neutered or spayed).
In the American breed standard, it is specified that the female Rottweiler adult will look distinctly “feminine” versus a male Rottweiler having a “masculine” look. This is absent from the German breed standard.
In the American breed standard, the coloration specified is black with rust to mahogany accent. In the German version, it is specified that the coloration of the coat is black and rust.
There is a lack of clarity regarding the type known as the Serbian Rottweiler. Sometimes these dogs are also called the Russian Rottweiler.
Basically, once again it boils down to the dog’s birthplace. If the dog or the dog’s lineage was born in Serbia (or Russia) then the lineage is sometimes said to be from Serbian Rottweilers.
As Big Sky Rottweiler Rescue charity explains, the “rare” Rottweiler is technically a myth.
There is no such thing as a rare Rottweiler dog, per se. Sometimes dogs with unusual features or coloration may be called “rare,” such as single-color coats (red is the most common here) or long hair coats.
This is usually the result of breeding outside the official breed standard. It could be that the breeder didn’t know what they were doing or that the breeder deliberately bred for certain traits just so they could call the dog “rare” and charge a high price.
This usually does a disservice to the dog and is very confusing to prospective Rottweiler owners.
How Many Types of Rottweilers Are There, Really?
When you dig through the differences in terminology and work through the differences of opinion, what you are left with is that the Rottweiler is a single breed of dog.
There can be slight appearance differences in Rottweilers that are born in Germany or America or Serbia or elsewhere in Russia or Europe.
But these reflect the different preferences of breeders in those parts of the world and are generally not sufficient to merit calling the dog a different type of dog.
A good example of this is tail docking, which is the surgical removal of the tail – this has nothing to do with the dog’s genetics.
Since some breeders will attempt to charge more for Rottweilers based on where the dogs (or the parent dogs) were born or what the dogs look like, it is important to do your own research and discover whether the price you are being charged is fair.
If a Rottweiler dog has numerous awards of merit for appearance or working dog competitions, this might justify charging a higher price. This is especially the case if you aspire to breed Rottweilers in the future.
But otherwise, the most important thing to look for in a Rottweiler who is going to be your companion canine or service dog is a healthy dog.
Make sure the breeder has done all the required Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) pre-breeding genetic tests.
Ask the breeder to see proof of testing and proof your puppy has received all required vaccinations and anti-pest treatments. Be sure to get an initial guarantee of health. Then have your own veterinarian examine the puppy.
Ultimately, a well-bred Rottweiler is a healthy Rottweiler dog.