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The history of our modern Rottweilers reaches back all the way to the Roman Empire, when their ancestors were tasked with herding cattle for the Roman army. The dogs’ job was to both herd and guard the cattle that moved with the marching forces, as the Roman Empire spread out from Italy to conquer Central Europe. After the Roman armies had crossed the Alps and conquered parts of modern Germany, these strong herding dogs were crossed with local breeds – and their offspring became the base breeding stock for the Rottweiler and various other German dog breeds. Over the centuries, the Rottweiler distinguished itself as extremely capable in driving cattle and in protecting both livestock and its owners from thieves.

And whilst Belgian Malinois are herding dogs as well, they were bred for slightly different purposes: Their role consisted primarily in herding sheep (rather than cattle like the Rottie), in close cooperation with the Shepherd who owned the flock. However, just like the Rottie, the naturally protective breed will most likely also have guarded their flocks from predators.

The Belgian Malinois that we know today has been developed in the late 1800s, when Adrien Janssens, a professional Shepherd himself, set out to create a highly effective and agile sheepdog.

As the 19th century came to an end and there were not many sheep left in Belgium, the Malinois proved itself in dressage trials which tested the dog's intelligence, obedience, and agility. Quickly, the Malinois’ extreme talent and versatility became obvious, and it was the first breed to join the Belgian police force – where it further proved its capability by winning several international police dog competitions.

Since then – as is the case with the Rottweiler - the breed has spread all across the globe and is utilized as service dog for the Armed Forces, as Search and Rescue dog, as high-level sports dog and as Therapy dog.


Rottweilers come with short, glossy black-and-tan coats. (Which basically means they are almost exclusively black with clearly distinguished tan, rust, or mahogany markings.) They are very muscular by nature, more so than the Malinois or any other Shepherd breed, and have a compact body shape. The height of Rotties ranges from approximately 24 to 27 inches at the withers in males and from 22 to 25 inches in females. Which amounts to about 61 to 69 cm for males and 56 to 64 cm for females.

The heads of these powerful dogs are blocky and have a marked stop, as well as a relatively short muzzle. Like many working breeds, their tails are usually docked short to match the generally stocky appearance of the dogs. However, in recent times, several European countries have forbidden cropping and docking in dogs.

Contrary to the Rottweiler, the shape of the Malinois’ heads, tails and entire bodies is typical for the Shepherd breeds and fairly similar to the smaller working line German Shepherd. Which means their bodies are built athletic and well-muscled, but far more elegant than bulky. Their expression should be proud and alert at all times, according to breed standards. Their ears are erect and their tails slightly bushy and of medium length.

Unlike the Rotties with their exclusively black-and-tan coats, Belgian Malinois come in the colours Tan, Mahogany and Black-tipped Fawn. Malis are a medium to large breed of square built. In size, the ideal for males is between 61 and 66 cm and between 56 and 61 cms for females. (That is between 24 and 26 inches for males and between 22 and 24 inches for females.)


In terms of intelligence and trainability, these amazing working- and guard dog breeds rank extremely high on the scale: Both the Rottie and the Belgian Malinois are incredibly intelligent, versatile, and trainable. These characteristics make them an absolute joy to work with. However, there are subtle differences when it comes to their trainability, with the Mali ranking far higher in this regard – while the Rottie sometimes has a mind of its own. Also, whilst Malinois, especially intact males, can test boundaries by means of growling and trying to bite the handler, such behaviour is fairly rare. Rottweilers, on the other hand, are quite prone to these forms of aggression.

In general, Rotties are very driven and intense working dogs. And they absolutely need strong leadership. Which means, an experienced, patient, and consistent leader whom they can respect and trust. Under the guidance of such a person, Rottweilers thrive and unfold their immense potential as working dogs in many different fields.

When it comes to the Belgian Malinois, the shining star on the firmament of guard dog breeds, it is safe to say: The breed is a straight 10 out of 10 when it comes to its intelligence and trainability. This smart canine athlete can be trained to extremely high levels of obedience, guarding, and tracking, as well as search & rescue work. These dogs are top-performers and absolutely amazing to work with. They are immensely eager to perform and to please their owners. Malis are not stubborn, and absolutely will give their very best in every training session. This high trainability, couple with their immense intelligence, makes them learn extremely quickly.

As service dogs and sports dogs, they have even overtaken the German Shepherd in the last few decades, and they do surpass the Rottweiler in terms of intelligence, trainability, and agility. In their original role as sheepherders, they are as keen, quick and efficient as the Border Collie. In the search & rescue field, they work faster and more efficiently than the Rottweiler.

Also, Malis are far more forgiving than Rotties when it comes to mistakes in their training, and their usually very friendly nature will allow their handler to correct any mistake with ease. The Rottweiler, on the other hand, can respond with aggression to corrective measures.

In summary we can say: Both breeds are excellent working dogs: keen, alert and naturally protective of their owners and their owners’ property. Both breeds require an experienced handler who can channel their high energy and prey drive into a positive direction.


Both Rottweilers and Belgian Malinois are primarily working dogs – and not house pets. These breeds require a lot of socialization from an early age on to become reliable house and family dogs. Especially Rottweilers can get very aggressive towards people and other dogs if they are raised without much socialization.

However, in the hands of an expert canine leader, Rottweilers can be devoted family dogs and become best friends – and trusted protectors – for any children living in their household. As they are a superb guard dogs by nature and come with an extremely high intimidation factor, they will prevent most house intrusions or attacks to their owners’ person by their fearsome appearance alone. As well, Rotties have a deep, booming bark and plenty of bite force to make them very capable defenders, should the need occur.

Malis are no less loyal to and protective of their owners and can also make quite good family dogs – provided they are trained to live and behave in a home environment from an early age onwards. Although not as overtly affectionate or attached to their owners as most members of the Mastiff-family, they are most happy when around their family. That said, Malis are much higher in prey drive and energy levels than Rottweilers – which can lead to serious chewing, unless, again, trained from puppyhood onwards to channel the power of their jaws into toys, rather than into destroying the possessions of their owners. These beautiful Belgian Shepherds are naturally joyful, enthusiastic, and friendly. Usually, they get along wonderfully with people and other dogs, provided they were socialised properly.

Nevertheless, Malis are extremely high-energy dogs, who will be happiest when engaged in some kind of vigorous activity, such as playtimes, training sessions, tracking- or guarding work, walks, hikes or swims.


The Rottweiler’s short and naturally shiny coat only requires minimal grooming: One good brush a couple of times a week is quite sufficient. Rotties do not shed much throughout the year, but they will need a bit of extra brushing during shedding season in spring and autumn. Because of their jowles, Rottweilers do drool moderately, mostly after drinking and eating. To prevent weight gain and to keep the dog sufficiently stimulated both physically and mentally, daily long walks are a must. Rotties should be given the opportunity to run off-leash at least once per day – unless they are provided with a large secured backyard where they can run and play. Of course, Rottweilers far prefer any kind of interactive play with their owners to just being left outside in the yard alone.

Now, let’s see how the Mali relates to the Rottie in terms of exercise and grooming requirements. The beautiful double-coats of the Belgian Malinois require quite a bit more work on the grooming front than Rotties and should be brushed every day to avoid shedding – and multiple times a day in shedding season. They are heavy shedders all year round, and their short hairs will get everywhere in the house.

In terms of exercise – Malis need lots and lots of it! Without sufficient, vigorous daily exercise, Malinois can easily become disturbingly vocal and destructive, especially when left to their own devices. Daily runs off-leash are a must, and these can be further intensified by bringing a throwing-toy along for the walk (like a ball, frisbee or Kong). Apart from playing fetch, you can tire your Mali out – at least for a few hours – by engaging them with flirt-pole or by letting the dog run next to your bicycle. 

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