The Rottweiler, or Rottweil Metzgerhund (Butcher Dog), hails from the German market town of Rottweil on the edge of the Black Forest. A robust, hardy breed of the Molosser-type, the ‘Rottie’ has unfairly gained an unsavoury reputation over the years not only as a result of its popularity amongst thugs but also because of its portrayal as a ‘Devil Dog’ in 70s horror flick The Omen. In reality, however, these dogs are gentle giants; dedicated and loyal, they were prized by the Romans for their herding abilities and later became expertly practised at the art of butchery.
The coat is black, coarse and dense with a tan underside. The head is large and bullish, broad between the ears and perfectly suited to the boater. Fitted with a reliable workhorse engine, the Rottweiler generates a considerable amount of torque and delivers consistent pulling power throughout the rev range making it one of the most suitable breeds for towing. In its native Germany, the breed has been used for both ambulance and police work.
Until the outbreak of World War I, the Rottweiler was usually the first point of contact for hungry travellers seeking Wiener Schnitzel, Bratwurst, Bierwurst and the traditional Schwarzwald delicacy, Curry Wurst. Wearing their characteristic red and white striped aprons, boater hats and lederhosen, the ‘butcher dogs’ were a common sight throughout Bavaria and Swabia, dispensing sausages to hordes of hungry merchants from the carts they pulled behind them.
But the breed was to fall into disrepute following what the records refer to only as a Fleisch-Zwischenfall (literally, a ‘meat incident’) in Flanders, 1917. With the exception of a further, rarely-mentioned indiscretion in the 1940s and a brief appearance in the aforementioned movie The Omen, not much was heard from the Rottweiler until the late 1980s, when the breed was re-launched as a family dog and all-round good egg.
These days, Rottweilers are just dogs, plain and simple, and no longer work as butchers. ‘No more the butcher’s life for me,’ sings the lonely, oft-misunderstood Rottweiler to himself in melancholy moments when he pops out to the back yard to smoke a cigarette and ponder what it’s all about. Luckily, such moments are few and far between as the Rottie has now found new purpose as best friend to the men, women and children of the world. ‘Hooray for the Rottweiler,’ all the people sing, ‘for he is our friend!’ Indeed he is.