Pliny the elder mentioned them travelling with the German Mercenaries that fought for the Roman armies.
The Hovawart was known in the 12th/13th century as a castle Guard and companion to the Aristocrats in the area Germany. The breed was not heard of again in any writing, until Kurt Koenig and Von Stephanitz decided there should be a German breed. The GSD came into being under the Guidance of Von Stephanitz and Kurt Koenig, a geneticist, was persuaded that the 'farm dogs' in North Germany were a 'breed' and helped the farmers 'fix' a type. This was called the Hovawart as they fitted the 'old' description.
A stud book was started in 1915, it took until 1936 before the breed was recognised by the FCI.
They have a working breed, are very versatile and have wonderful scenting ability. The Hovawart can run all day or be happy to play couch potato so long as the owner/family are close.
Some males still retain the stock guarding defence, this manifests as male/male aggression.
Hovies are a healthy breed having few problems. Breeders are careful to keep it this way by testing for hips as a given, eyes/elbows tests are optional, though few have ever been found in GB. Underactive thyroid is tested for, because the first few dogs imported suffered from this. It has been quite a few years since this has been seen (2010).
Cancer has been noted.