Why is Dortmund v Schalke a derby? Revierderby origins explained – including lions on the pitch

Dortmund face Schalke in a unique Revierderby this weekend but why is the game a rivalry?

Dortmund Schalke

The Bundesliga returns with an exciting slate of games this weekend, none more tantalising than a Revierderby encounter between Dortmund and Schalke.


What is the first football rivalry that springs to your mind? Give it a try. Perhaps it’s Celtic v Rangers, maybe Barcelona v Real Madrid, Liverpool v Manchester United, River Plate v Boca Juniors… the list goes on, but you’ll probably not come to Dortmund v Schalke in a hurry.

Watch Dortmund v Schalke on TV and live stream

And yet, it remains one of the most hotly contested derby games anywhere, with the towering arenas in each city packed to the rafters for every Revierderby occasion – but what’s it all about?

What does Revierderby mean?

Revierderby is the term given to games between teams situated in the Ruhr region in the western area of Germany near the border with the Netherlands. The word ‘revier’ is a shortened form of ‘bergbaurevier’ which translates as ‘mining area’.

Numerous Revierderby games take place between teams such as VfL Bochum, Duisburg or Rot-Weiss Essen, though these are referred to as ‘kleines Revierderby’ (minor Revierderby), with the main word alone used to refer to the biggest of all – Dortmund v Schalke.

Why are Dortmund and Schalke rivals?

Dortmund is nearly double the size of Gelsenkirchen, the home of Schalke, but just over 20 miles separate the two cities who have fostered a deep rivalry with one another in the form of football.

The cities developed the rivalry in the 1920s when both were the heartbeat of the coal and steel industry across Germany. Schalke were the dominant football force in the early days before the balance of power steadily shifted. The 70s brought economic turmoil across the nation, leading to the formation of extreme fan groups who ramped up the tensions between the sides.

Two Schalke players were bitten by police dogs that burst onto the pitch while trying to control an over-crowded match in Dortmund in 1969. In response, Schalke hired four lions from a nearby safari park to be paraded around the pitch to intimidate the Dortmund players as they attempted to warm up ahead of the reverse fixture in 1970.

Dortmund Schalke

While Dortmund have enjoyed far greater success in recent times, Schalke have triumphed more in head-to-head games with one another. Die Königsblauen (The Royal Blues) have won 60 encounters to Dortmund’s 52 across 155 meetings.

Results have been very evenly split over the last decade, while five of the last eight games have ended in draws, including a wild 4-4 clash in November 2017 which saw Dortmund go in 4-0 up at half time, only for their rivals to score four at Westfalenstadion to snatch a famous result.

Dortmund and Schalke ultras fans were banned from each other’s stadiums for several years recently following scuffles and violence at games. Once both sets of fans were allowed back in the stadiums in 2019, a number of obscene banners were directed at each other while two Dortmund players received red cards and Schalke picked up six yellows last April.


This Revierderby will be like no other with no crowd allowed inside the ground to ignite an atmosphere, but you can still rely on the 22 men on the pitch to provide plenty of fireworks, plenty of chaos, plenty of sweet, sweet football when the Bundesliga returns.

Watch Dortmund v Schalke on TV and live stream