Why do Rottweilers Have Eyebrows?

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One of the most distinctive characteristics of a Rottweiler is the striking black and tan coloration and the charming, expressive eyebrows.

But why do Rottweilers have eyebrows? 

Rottweilers have eyebrows because eyebrows can aid in communication, provide an intimidating appearance, and because eyebrows are tied to a very old gene that appears in many different dog breeds. Rottweilers use their eyebrows to herd livestock, intimidate their enemies, and communicate with people.

If you’ve ever wondered why Rottweilers have eyebrows, how they use them, and if dogs with eyebrows are more aggressive than other breeds, here’s everything you know to know about Rottweilers and their expressive eyebrows.

Why do Rottweilers Have Eyebrows?

Let’s take a look at three possilbe reasons why Rotties have eyebrows!

Communication

One very good theory for why several dog breeds, including Rottweilers, have eyebrows is because eyebrows are a way to communicate with people and other dogs. All dogs have eyebrows, but accentuating them with a different color causes them to stand out and makes the communication signals more clear. 

This is especially important in black dogs, like the Rottweiler, since it may be difficult otherwise to see social signals in the face. Communication using facial expression is very important for dogs to communicate with people, but it is also a valuable tool when communicating with other dogs. 

Eyebrows help to accentuate eye contact, loose facial expressions, and other signs that the dog is being friendly or would rather the other dog back off.

Wondering just how communicative Rottweilers can be? Here’s how one Rottie feels about being left home when his mom goes out:

Intimidation

The Rottweiler’s tan eyebrows and other tan markings against an otherwise black background create a very consistent appearance, almost like a military uniform. This should come as no surprise when we consider that Rottweilers were Roman war dogs very early in their history and went on to become German military dogs and then military and police dogs across the world (at least for a little while).

The consistent black and tan coloration provides a uniform-like front, especially when multiple dogs are walked together. Since one of the primary goals of military and police dogs is to provide an intimidating, confident-looking front, this kind of militarized appearance would have been very valuable in the Rottweiler.

Genetics

Black and tan coloration appear to be tied to a gene known as Agouti. This is one of the oldest genes in dogs. It can cause different colors, including the sable coloration of a wolf, the saddleback of a German Shepherd, and the black and tan of a Rottweiler. 

While black and tan aren’t dominant, it does seem to be a color that crops up in a number of breeds, perhaps because it is such an old coloration. It isn’t surprising that this color mutation appeared in and preserved in Rottweilers, as well as many of the other breeds that were descended from Rottweilers such as Doberman Pinschers.

Why do Other Breeds Have Eyebrows Like Rottweilers?

You may have noticed that Rottweilers are not the only breed with black and tan coloration and distinct eyebrow markings. In fact, all kinds of dogs have black and tan coloration. 

Since black and tan coloration is tied to ancient wolf genetics that may come up in almost any breed, all kinds of dogs can show black and tan. Even dogs typically not thought of as being black and tan, like poodles, can show this coloration even in completely purebred dogs.

However, there is a more distinct reason that so many breeds look so much like Rottweilers. Rottweilers were the foundation stock for many German breeds. They were among the first dogs in the area, having been brought along with Romans as war dogs and as herders. They went on to influence many dog breeds, most notably the Doberman

How do Rottweilers Use Their Eyebrows?

Rottweilers make use of their expressive eyebrows in a number of different ways. Rottweilers have many different jobs, and they are one of the most versatile of all dog breeds. A Rottweiler is equally adept at guiding the blind and being a playmate to children as they are working at bite work or herding challenging livestock. Here are a few ways that the Rottweiler’s eyebrows may come into play in their various jobs:

  • Attack work. The Rottweiler has one of the strongest bite forces of any breed of dog. The powerful jaw combined with the Rottweiler’s bravery and willingness to defend their people makes this a superb dog for attack work. The Rottweiler’s eyebrows serve as a means of intimidation to encourage people to back off before an attack.
  • Herding. Rottweilers are superior herding dogs, particularly of livestock that is difficult for other types of dogs to manage. They use their physical strength to intimidate and to physically shove livestock into doing what they want. Rottweilers also form a bond with their livestock over time as long as the livestock complies with their wishes. A Rottweiler’s eyebrows likely help to intimidate livestock and also communicate with them as a bond develops.
  • Guarding. Rottweilers are known for their powerful bite, but they are not as well-known as superb self-controlled guard dogs. Rottweilers were used, in large part, to pull carts as well as drive livestock to market. They had to defend the property of their handler while at the same time not making the wrong decision and biting an innocent passerby. Using their eyebrows to intimidate potential criminals was a much better tactic than biting when it wasn’t necessary.

How to Tell What Your Rottweiler is Saying with Their Eyebrows

A Rottweiler’s eyebrows can be very helpful for you to determine what they’re thinking and how they may be about to behave. Rottweilers are highly instinctual dogs that can have their own minds. 

They require consistent training, socializing, and handling from an early age to grow into well-adjusted dogs. Understanding what your dog is saying with their eyebrows can make it a lot easier for you to raise and manage them appropriately. Here are a few things that you can read from eyebrows:

  • Scrunched and unmoving. If your Rottie’s eyebrows are unwavering and they are scrunched down over the eyes, particularly with pricked ears and a stiff body, your dog is showing focused attention. This kind of stiff body attention could be an indication of coming aggression, fear, or just a lot of focus. If you are not sure which it is, it’s important to keep your Rottweiler on a leash until you understand more about what this kind of behavior indicates.
  • Arcs towards the sides of the face. Eyebrows in arcs more towards the sides of the face than the middle typically indicate that your dog is happy and relaxed. This eyebrow expression usually goes along with a relaxed mouth, a lolling tongue, and relaxed ears that are hanging down to the sides.
  • Triangles over the middle of the eyes. Eyebrows that are positioned over the eyes, more towards the middle of the face than the outside, often indicate attention, such as the relaxed but attentive attitude of a dog in training. This is likely the expression your Rottweiler wears when they are following a command and focused on you. It is also a good way for them to look at another dog, particularly if it alternates with looking away, a wagging tail, and a relaxed expression.
  • Squished in towards the middle of the face. This is very close to the scrunched and unmoving position, but the eyebrows are closer to the middle. The expression is more one of fear or concern than it is fixed attention. Ears are typically dropped at the side of the head and the tongue is not lolling when the eyebrows are in this position. Eyebrows in this position often mean that your Rottweiler is afraid or concerned about something.
  • Raised up. Eyebrows that are raised, especially with a slightly open mouth and ears that are back, typically indicate surprise or confusion. Your dog may make this expression if you hide their toy suddenly or as they are considering their reflection in a mirror. The raised up eyebrows and fearful eyebrows are very similar, but differences are clear in the position of the mouth and ears.

Are Dogs With Eyebrows More Aggressive?

The black and tan coloration associated with the Rottweilers’ eyebrows is too often associated with aggression. Breeds with this coloration, such as Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers, are often handled irresponsibly and taught to be arbitrarily aggressive. 

Of course, these dogs do have natural guarding instincts and are superb home guardians, military, and police dogs. However, the Rottweiler’s coloration really has nothing to do with their potential for aggression.

All kinds of dogs can show black and tan, many of which we don’t typically think of as being aggressive. Black and tan coloration and the eyebrows it creates are tied to a gene that goes very far back in dog history and is also responsible for the sable coloration like a wolf’s color.

All kinds of breeds display this gene, including many that most of us don’t think of as being aggressive, like Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Poodles, Coonhounds, and Australian Shepherds, to name just a few. In fact, all kinds of breeds have eyebrow markings, since these kinds of markings have been so useful for so many reasons. 

Final Thoughts

Rottweilers use their expressive eyebrows in all sorts of ways to communicate, intimidate, and achieve a consistent appearance with other Rottweilers as military dogs. The Rottie’s eyebrows aren’t just cute, they’re highly functional tools that the Rottie puts to good use