Showsight Presents The Rottweiler

ROTTWEILERS History & Heritage

by Joan Klem (Rodsden Rottweilers, Reg.) & suzan guynn (Cammcastle Rottweilers)

I n the introduction to her 1984 book, The Complete Rottwei- ler, Ms. Muriel Freeman shares an ancient Plutarchian anecdote about a 5th Century B.C. Athenian gen- eral called Alcibiades who paid a fortune for a very handsome dog only to muti- late it for his own notoriety and political diversion. She poignantly wrote, “Man’s mentality has changed little in 2,500 years. There are still those who will pay an enormous price for a dog and then, either deliberately through guile or accidentally through ignorance, pro- ceed to pervert the nature of the ani- mal it took so very many generations to develop and for which they paid so high a price”—a fitting lead-in for her larger effort to impart “an appreciation of the Rottweiler’s great heritage, a desire to preserve that heritage and the knowl- edge necessary to pass it on to future generations.” Ms. Freeman’s prophetic illustration serves well as a siren to those who count themselves as true guardians of today’s Rottweiler and his remarkable story. Perhaps the most senior living guard- ian of the Rottweiler heritage is AKC and International Rottweiler Judge Joan Klem (see her included bio). She and her niece, AKC and International Judge Susan Rademacher, co-authored the 1996 book, The Rottweiler Experience, an extraordinary chronology of Rott- weiler heritage and lore. The following breed history is reproduced in portions from this researched publication. In the BegInnIng We surmise that the Rottweiler descends from one of the “work horses” of antiquity. When the Romans spread into Europe around 74 AD, they brought along the Molosser dogs —those formi- dable proto-Mastiffs which fought in the coliseums and then accompanied their masters over the Alps, herding and guarding the livestock. As sites of

civilization arose along the legions’ roads, so did various types of dogs. One road led to an army encampment on the Neckar River in what was to become the state of Swabia in southern Germany. This camp flourished as a trading cen- ter and was eventually called Rottweil (Rote Wil, after its red-tiled roofs). Here, a remarkable breed of dog developed which eventually became known as the Rottweiler. An often-repeated story in “Rott- weiler lore” holds that the butchers of medieval Rottweil depended on their dogs to assist with business. These butchers’ dogs, or Metzgerhunds, were first used to help the butchers herd cattle to market; then, after the cattle were slaughtered, the dogs pulled the butchers’ carts. Finally, when the meat was sold, the purses were tied around the dogs’ necks to keep the money from bandits or perhaps from any butchers who might spend too much time in the beer hall! This favorite yarn illustrates that the Rottweiler developed as a drover, draft dog and guard dog and that with these purposes came the necessary traits of endurance, strength, loyalty and above all, intelligence. Such a versatile dog kept busy in the manner described until about the mid-19th century, when rail- roads replaced droving for getting live- stock to market. And using dogs as draft animals was ultimately outlawed (due in part to abuses). Our helpmate, the Rottweiler, then fell on hard times as his customary jobs were being eliminated thanks to industrial progress. If instincts, or shall we say talents, are not used, will they be lost? Apparently not, at least in the case of the Rottweiler. More than a cen- tury after herding ceased to be a part of the Rottweiler’s professional rep- ertoire, American Rottweiler fanciers petitioned the American Kennel Club to allow the Rottweiler to compete in

AKC herding events based not only on the breed’s herding heritage, but pri- marily on documented proof in modern herding trials that the instinct remains strong in the breed. In 1994, the Ameri- can Kennel Club made the Rottweiler one of the rare exceptions to its rules and allowed a designated breed in the Working Group, the Rottweiler, to com- pete in herding trials usually restrict- ed to the designated breeds in the Herding Group. Herding ability didn’t save the breed in the late 1800s. Those traits mentioned previously—endurance, strength, loyalty and intelligence, were found to fit the requirements needed for guard dogs, and the Rottweiler’s talents were put to new uses with the police and military. With suitability for those tasks, the more modern Rottweiler was developed. The Rottweiler we recognize today really began with the formation of the first Rottweiler Club in Germany. We need to remember that the early Rott- weiler cubs were organized by practi- cal, hard-working tradesmen whose goal was to develop a similarly practi- cal, hard-working dog that would be fit to serve them in their livelihoods. Initially, function was stressed above everything else. The first Standard for the breed was written by the first club—a combined club for the Rottweiler and the Leon- berger in 1901. The Leonberger is a large, long-coated breed developed in Leonberg, Germany. The characteristic heavy mane in male Leonbergers is sup- posed to give the dog a lion-like appear- ance and reflect the city’s name. The Leonberger is also probably descended from Roman dogs, making them Swa- bian cousins of the Rottweiler. The first Rottweiler Standard was not too different from our present-day Standard. Where the original Stan- dard radically departs from its current

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