Although a versatile breed used in recent times for many purposes, the Rottweiler is primarily one of the oldest, if not the oldest of herding breeds. A multi-faceted herding and stock protection dog, it is capable of working all kinds of livestock under a variety of conditions.
The breed’s history likely dates to the Roman Empire. In those times, the Roman legion travelled with working dogs to herd the cattle needed to feed the army. One route the army traveled was through Württemberg and on to the small market town of Rottweil. The principal ancestors of the first Rottweilers during this time are believed to be the Roman droving dog, local dogs the army met on its travels, and dogs with molosser appearance coming from England and the Netherlands.
This region was eventually to become an important cattle area, and the descendants of the Roman cattle dogs proved their worth in both driving and protecting the cattle from robbers and wild animals. Rottweilers were said to have been used by travelling butchers at markets during the Middle Ages to guard money pouches tied around their necks. However, as railroads became the primary method for moving stock to market, the breed had declined so much that by 1900 there was only one female to be found in the town of Rottweil.
The buildup to World War I saw a great demand for police dogs, and that led to a revival of interest in the Rottweiler. During the First and Second World Wars, Rottweilers were put into service in various roles, including as messenger, ambulance, draught, and guard dogs.
The Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub (DRK, German Rottweiler Club), the first Rottweiler club in Germany, was founded on 13 January 1914, and followed by the creation of the Süddeutscher Rottweiler-Klub (SDRK, South German Rottweiler Club) on 27 April 1915 and eventually became the IRK (International Rottweiler Club). The DRK counted around 500 Rottweilers, and the SDRK 3000 Rottweilers. The goals of the two clubs were different. The DRK aimed to produce working dogs and did not emphasise the morphology of the Rottweiler.
The various German Rottweiler Clubs amalgamated to form the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK, General German Rottweiler Club) in 1921. This was officially recorded in the register of clubs and associations at the district court of Stuttgart on 27 January 1924. The ADRK is recognised worldwide as the home club of the Rottweiler.