Rottweilers are a well-known and popular breed with striking features and a long, noble history of service and friendship with mankind. Despite this, there is still a lot of misconception surrounding this beautiful breed.
Are they the vicious animals people say they are? What were they first bred for? And do they have webbed feet or not? Read on below to find out the answers and see how they relate to each other and the history of this noble breed.
Do Rottweilers Have Webbed Feet?
The short answer is no. Rottweilers do not have webbed feet. Rottweilers should have round, compact feet with well-arched toes and thick pads. However, some Rottweilers can have some webbing between their toes, but this is generally the result of being crossed with another breed more suited for the water, like Labradors or Newfoundlands.
Webbing on a dog’s feet is an exciting trait. Technically, all dogs (and even humans) have webbing to some extent.
The extensive webbing that can give a duck-like appearance is generally only present in dogs that are explicitly bred to work in water.
This explains why Rottweilers don’t generally have webbing between their toes. Unlike other working dogs, Rottweilers have never been used much in the water.
Read on to learn more about what causes webbed feet in dogs, what Rottweilers were bred for, and why they generally don’t need extra webbing between their toes.
Do Webbed Feet Affect Rottweilers’ Ability to Swim?
While Rottweilers do not have webbed feet, their anatomy is still conducive to swimming.
Rottweilers have broad chests, strong shoulders, and powerful hindquarters, which give them buoyancy and propulsion in the water. They also have a thick coat that helps them to stay warm and dry.
However, Rottweilers may not be as efficient swimmers as water dogs with webbed feet. They may have to work harder to keep their heads above water and may tire more quickly.
Moreover, Rottweilers may be less comfortable in the water than water dogs, as they may have a different instinctual affinity for swimming.
If you have a Rottweiler and want to take them swimming, it’s essential to introduce them to water gradually and make sure they feel safe and comfortable.
You can start by letting them wade in shallow water and gradually increase the depth and distance. You can also use a life jacket to provide extra buoyancy and support.
What Other Traits Make Rottweilers Good Swimmers?
While webbed feet are not a defining characteristic of Rottweilers, they have other traits that make them good swimmers. For example:
- Muscular Build: Rottweilers have a robust and well-proportioned body that generates force and speed in the water. They have broad chests, strong backs, and muscular hindquarters, enabling them to paddle efficiently.
- Natural Love for Water: Although Rottweilers were not bred for water-related tasks, they still have a natural affinity for water. Many Rottweilers enjoy playing in the water, chasing toys, and splashing around. Positive reinforcement and training can nurture and develop this love for the water.
- Thick Coat: Rottweilers have a double-layered coat that provides insulation and protection from the elements. Their topcoat is dense, short, and waterproof, while their undercoat is soft and fluffy. This coat helps them to stay warm and dry in the water, especially in colder temperatures.
Why Don’t Rottweilers Have Webbed Feet?
Simply put, Rottweilers don’t have webbed feet because they’ve never needed them. Rottweilers have a long history dating back to Roman times.
While they have been valuable working dogs for centuries, they were never intentionally or otherwise developed to work in the water.
Let’s take a look at the history of the Rottweiler and why webbing would be superfluous in light of the jobs that they are used for:
The Ancient Romans were ingenuitive problem solvers, as seen clearly in their love of breeding dogs. Many of the breeds we have today and how we breed dogs date back to practices and breeds established by the Romans.
One such breed is the Rottweiler. Initially, the ancestors of the Rottweilers were used as drover dogs to help drive and guard livestock to feed the Roman armies on the move.
Once the Roman Empire collapsed, these dogs became popular in the German town of Rottweil. The cattle town needed dogs to protect and drive the herds, pull carts of butchered meat, and protect the owners when they carried their profits home.
These dogs were so popular they were bred specifically to help out the town’s butchers and became known as Rottweiler Metzgerhund or the Butcher’s Dog of Rottweil. Later, this name was shortened to Rottweiler.
Their Purpose Today
Rottweilers were used as cattle dogs until the advent of railroad cattle cars in the 1800s. However, their protectiveness, loyalty, and hard-working attitude made them good candidates for jobs like police dogs and guard dogs.
According to the American Kennel Club, Rottweilers were even among the first dogs to be used as guides for the blind. They also worked as a search and rescue dogs at disaster sites like the World Trade Center.
Today, the protective instincts of a Rottweiler can be refined to make them excellent guard dogs. This breed is also incredibly loyal and intelligent, making them excellent family dogs. And, of course, Rottweilers are still great working dogs that can fill various societal roles.
What Causes Webbed Feet?
Webbed feet are the result of membranes that are stretched between the phalanges that make up toes. If you look at a duck’s feet, they still have the same bones and toe structures that dogs and humans have, with extra skin stretched between them.
According to Epigenetic Principles of Evolution by Nelson Çabej, most land animals, including dogs and humans, have webbed fingers and toes when developing in the womb.
This is an evolutionary hold-over from when most mammals needed some advantage in an aquatic environment.
Most land-dwelling embryos lose this webbing as they develop. This happens through a process called apoptosis.
This process releases genetic coding that identifies cells programmed to die off in later stages of development and begins this elimination.
However, some creatures will retain this webbing either fully or partially once they’re born. This sometimes happens unintentionally if the embryo doesn’t develop as it should.
News Medical Observes this birth defect in children born with partially or sometimes fully webbed fingers and toes.
However, the retention of webbed feet is, in some cases, a deliberate evolution to give land-dwelling animals that spend a lot of time in the water, such as ducks, swans, and geese, an advantage in water and on slick surfaces.
As you probably know, webbed feet make swimming much easier for an animal. The webbing creates a larger surface area to push the animal against the water and propel the animal forward.
You may not realize that webbing helps animals navigate muddy or slippery surfaces. The extra surface area distributes weight more evenly and makes it easier for animals with webbed toes to walk on the ground where non-web-toed creatures might struggle.
For similar reasons, some dogs have developed webbed feet through a natural evolutionary process or deliberate selective breeding.
Why Do Some Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
Charles Darwin notes in his book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication that some dog breeds have varying degrees of webbing between their toes.
According to Darwin, this webbing is the process of selective breeding, though not with intentionality when it comes to webbing in particular.
Over the centuries that mankind and dogs have been coexisting, humans have been breeding dogs to perform specific jobs. While some dogs were needed for guarding, herding, and hunting, others were used in more aquatic-based roles.
This is certainly the case for Newfoundlands and Portuguese Water Dogs. These breeds were the product of a fishing culture that needed dogs willing to dive into the water to save fishermen swept overboard.
Labradors were also bred to be well-suited for water. This resulted from needing a smaller dog willing to swim out to retrieve lost fishing nets and later birds that a hunter had shot.
This video from Animal Planet shows how the webbing between a Lab’s toes makes it so well-adapted to the water.
As Darwin observed, breeding dogs specifically for water-based jobs was probably an intuitive rather than deliberate process for encouraging webbed feet.
Over the years, people likely encouraged those bloodlines that seemed well adapted to the water without realizing that the more extensive webbing between their toes was part of why some dogs did so well.
Nevertheless, this selective breeding has resulted in a unique cursorial animal that isn’t seen in nature without man’s intervention.
According to Wikipedia, cursorial animals have been bred or naturally adapted to run on land. Dogs are one example of a cursorial animal.
Horses, cheetahs, and gazelles are also examples of cursorial animals that have developed specifically to run on land to catch or avoid being prey.
Generally, while webbed feet will provide sure footing in slick areas, they usually result in an awkward waddle on dry land. In contrast, most animals suited for a land living don’t naturally have webbing to help them in water.
Dogs are unique in that they are still cursorial animals. Still, selective breeding has resulted in some dogs having enough webbing to swim faster and have sure footing in damp environments without compromising their agility on dry ground.
Dog Breeds with Webbed Feet
Newfoundlands are one of the most popular web-footed dog breeds. They have large webbed paws that help them swim long distances. Newfoundlands are known for their strength and are often used as rescue dogs. They are also great family dogs due to their gentle nature.
2. Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog is another breed that has webbed paws. They were initially bred for fishing and have been used as water rescue dogs. They have energetic and playful personality that makes them great family pets.
3. Labrador Retriever
Labradors are great family pets and are often used as service dogs. Labrador Retrievers have friendly and loyal nature. They also have webbed feet, which help them swim and retrieve games.
4. German Wirehaired Pointer
The German Wirehaired Pointer is a versatile hunting dog with webbed feet. They have a water-repellent coat and webbed feet that help them swim and retrieve game. They are also great family dogs known for their loyalty and intelligence.
Dachshunds are a small breed that may not seem to have webbed feet, but they do. Their webbed feet help them swim and navigate through water. Dachshunds are known for their lively and spunky personalities.
6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a large breed initially bred for hunting waterfowl. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are known for their loyalty and intelligence. They have webbed paws that help them swim and retrieve games.
The Weimaraner is a versatile hunting dog that has webbed paws. They have a water-repellent coat and webbed feet that help them swim and retrieve game. They are also great family pets known for their loyalty and intelligence.
The Otterhound is a large breed that was initially bred for hunting otters. They have webbed paws that help them swim and navigate through water. Otterhounds are known for their friendly and outgoing personalities.
To sum up, Rottweilers don’t typically have webbed feet. While they have a long history of working alongside humans, their purpose has never really included the need to do well in water.
Dogs with webbed feet result from long breeding to encourage this trait in dogs that must be agile in water and land.
Since Rottweilers were primarily descended from cattle and guard dogs, they never needed to retain the webbing that all dogs once had.
Rottweilers can have more extensive webbing between their toes, but this is generally the result of cross-breeding with dogs better adapted to water.
If your Rottweiler has some slight webbing between its toes, this may be an evolutionary hold-over that most terrestrial animals still have – even you! Like dogs, humans retain some residual webbing between their fingers and toes.
Whether or not Rottweilers have webbed paws has no bearing on the wonderful companions and hard workers, these dogs have proven themselves to be time and again.