Difference Between An American Rottweiler And A German Rottweiler

When it comes to Rottweilers, it's often love at first sight that makes this glistening, powerful-looking dog so compelling. Also loving and incredibly devoted, the wonderful Rottweiler temperament is revered among aficionados of this impressive breed.

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When it comes to Rottweilers, it's often love at first sight that makes this glistening, powerful-looking dog so compelling.
credit: dageldog/E+/GettyImages

In stark contrast to its beautiful yet decidedly intimidating appearance, a properly socialized Rottie is also calm and even laid back — a gentle playmate for kids and a fun member of the family, yet aloof and suspicious of strangers, as world-class guardians tend to be.

The American Rottweiler Club calls the Rottweiler "the best dog in the world," and thousands of Americans agree. It's no surprise that the Rottweiler ranks number eight in the American Kennel Club's top 10 most popular dogs.

So, if your heart is set on adding a Rottweiler to your family, the first place to look for an adolescent or adult Rottweiler is your local shelter or a Rottweiler-specific rescue, or you might decide to purchase a puppy from a breeder. Either way, do your research and don't be surprised to discover that there are several different types of Rottweilers from which to choose—or are there?

Are there really different Rottweilers?

You've scoured the internet, interviewed and picked the brains of Rottweiler breeders across the country, and even hauled home tons of library books to read up on the breed, all in the pursuit of learning everything you can about your dream dog. You've determined that a Rottweiler is the best breed for your family.

As it turns out, what you thought was simply a dog breed developed in Germany has morphed into a multidimensional, multicolored, and even multinational breed.

From the "king" to "colossal" to "gladiator" to "giant" Rottweiler puppies for sale and the "we have some of the biggest Rottweilers in the world" ads plastered all over the web from breeders promoting their American, German, and even Roman Rottweilers, you are bombarded with options. It's nothing short of mind boggling. Thrown into the mix are striking color variations ranging from the AKC breed standard's black with rust to mahogany markings to red, blue, and albino, which are touted as rare, highly prized, and desirable specimens of the breed.

How to choose a Rottweiler

So, what is the real difference between an American Rottweiler and a German Rottweiler or any of the other Rottweiler iterations? Should you choose a "giant" or go all out with a "colossal" and in what color? It depends on your budget and how close you would like your dog to be to the breed standard of either the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub or the American Kennel Club.

Keep in mind that a rare color means a far cry from the breed standard, and grossly oversized Rottweilers may be predisposed to hip dysplasia and other chronic health disorders associated with larger breeds.

German versus Roman Rottweiler

The truth is that all purebred Rottweilers are in fact technically German because the breed was originally developed in Germany in 1901, and every Rottweiler has German ancestors. However, per the American Kennel Club, the German General Rottweiler Club, or the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the largest canine organization in the world, the breed is known as Rottweiler without the German prefix or any other nationality defining prefix.

Then again, the Rottweiler ancestors and foundation breeding stock were Asian mastiff types that hailed from Rome. An ingenious people, the early Romans bred the dogs to herd and guard the livestock they took along for food as their legions cut a swath through Europe, attempting to conquer the world.

As they struggled to contain the Germanic tribes on their northern border, their dogs became the foundation stock for many German dog breeds, including Rottweilers. So, in a historical context based on their origin, you could call the breed Roman Rottweiler, which indeed some breeders are doing today.

After the fall of the Roman empire, these canine herders or drovers ended up in Rottweil, a town in southwest Germany. Initially, the robust dogs were known as Rottweiler Metzgerhund, meaning "Rottweil butchers' dogs," because they were primarily used to herd livestock and pull carts laden with butchered meat to market.

ADRK and AKC breed standard

"German Rottweiler" is used in marketing by some American breeders to signify that their breeding stock are imported from Germany and/or descended from famous or less-famous German bloodlines. However, all Rottweilers descend from German bloodlines.

Likewise, the "American Rottweiler" marketing may tell you that these dogs have a long lineage in the United States, and they are not importing dogs from Germany. It may tell you that the American Rottweiler is a different animal than its German counterpart. Again, they are the exact same breed.

Sure, the breeders using these descriptions of their dogs may expound on the "German" or "American" physical or personality characteristics of their line and note substantial differences — particularly size, head shape, and even temperament — but they're all Rottweilers.

American versus German Rottweiler

The differences stem from breeders not breeding to achieve the breed standard as mandated by the gold standard for Rottweilers: the ADRK — an acronym for Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (German General Rottweiler Club) — which enforces a strict breeding protocol.

All purebred Rottweilers worldwide must adhere to the same breed standard, which is a written description of the ideal specimen of a breed as stipulated by this definitive Rottweiler registry in Germany, established in 1907.

Dedicated to "the promotion of the working dog breed Rottweiler in form, character, and serviceability in sport, family, service, and leisure," the ADRK rules when it comes to Rottweilers. Standards describe the mental and physical characteristics that allow each breed to perform the function for which they were originated.

ADRK versus AKC rules

In Germany, you cannot register a litter of Rottweiler puppies unless both parents pass a strict breed suitability test that evaluates the Rottweiler's confirmation, temperament, and health to meet the breed standard. Therefore, only the best representatives of the breed produce puppies in Germany. Also, the German club is a stickler on size and weight, and a calm, stable temperament is paramount.

In the United States, the rules are less restrictive. Consequently, you'll see Rottweilers born in the U.S. who are bigger or smaller and with varying conformations because that's what the breeder prefers, regardless of whether it's the "correct" breed standard of the AKC or ADRK.

You should note that the AKC Rottweiler breed standard is very close or falls into the same range as the ADRK standard regarding size and essentially everything else, like temperament, weight, etc.

The tail tells

Every ethical Rottweiler breeder's passion and responsibility should be to preserve the integrity of the breed, which means breeding Rottweilers that conform to the breed standards set out by the ADRK—with one controversial exception dictated by the AKC.

To dock or not to dock? That is the question. Although banned in several countries, the United States continues to promote docking — also known as bobbing — Rottweiler tails short and close to the body, leaving one or two tail vertebrae per the AKC breed standard, a significant diversion from the ADRK breed standard.

In 1999, Germany banned tail docking and ear cropping of dogs. Thus, the ADRK modified the breed standard to include no tail docking of Rottweilers. Therefore, a Rottweiler living in Germany or imported from Germany today will have a naturally long tail, thus a visible distinction from a Rottweiler bred in America since many American breeders typically choose to dock. However, if you prefer to leave a dog's tail as nature designed, there are some American breeders who do not dock.