to the preservation of the Oriental Roller as a Flying -
kept and flew pigeons of one kind or another throughout my
childhood. My favorites were rollers and there was never any
doubt I would one day have them again. During the 20 plus years
I was away from them, I would often recall my little white
marked Birmingham Rollers and the shiny black & red selfs
and ďtigerĒ (Spread Almond) Oriental Rollers. For me
returning to keeping pigeons was more nostalgia than anything
else. I had a mild interest in the competition aspect of rollers
but my main concern was to recapture some of the old pleasures
and thrills I had watching my rollers in the air.
I began to search for Oriental Rollers. The breed was available
but these were not the small, colorful performers I remembered.
It seemed the Oriental Roller had become a show pigeon and with
this, the breed had grown in size and changed in conformation.
The search for flying-performing Oriental Rollers became a quest
that unexpectedly became a passion that persists today.
Eventually, I did locate flying stock and realized these pigeons
were now very rare on this continent.
The two people most helpful in my search were W. Paul Bradford
and Dale Husband, both from Utah. Though not as active a flier
as he once was, Mr. Husband sent me the best flying Oriental
Rollers Iíve ever had before or since. Dale and Paul grew up
together in Salt Lake City and are life long friends and pigeon
fanciers. Both men are among the handful of surviving Lifetime
Husband has worked with the Oriental Roller for over 60 years!
This devotion to the breed demonstrates a deep affection for our
pigeon. Mr. Husband is the premier authority on the flying
Oriental Roller in this country.
the spring of 1996 I had Oriental Rollers performing in the air
again. It was a lonely experience. I didnít know a single
other fancier who was seriously interested in flying the breed.
I kept in touch with Mr. Bradford and Mr. Husband, as they
seemed genuinely interested. In fact both men were more than
encouraging and actually demanded I keep them informed on my
same year, I asked both of these men to write down their
experience with flying Oriental Rollers and any history they
knew of the breed especially in the U.S.A.
responses follow. I hope you find what they had to say as
interesting as I did.
Ed. Note: Notes on some of the
people mentioned in the next two letters: J. LeRoy
Smith, One of the more well known and respected pioneer
rollermen in this country. Lived in Long Island, New York, in
the 1920ís, 30ís and 40ís;
Bob Evans, Another famous rollerman, from
California and closely associated with Bill Pensom; Mr.
Graham, Not the same Graham of ďFireball RollerĒ
fame but a fancier in Salt Lake City in early 1930ís; Dick
key player in roller history;
Ray Gilbert , Salt Lake City, active as a
member and President of the NPA during the 1930ís and later.
Bradford, May 14 1996
Hi Andy Estrada,
I received your letter and will try to answer your
questions to the best of my knowledge. Dale is in town so Iíll
enlist his help.
J. LeRoy Smith imported many performing pigeons among the
some Oriental Rollers. These birds came from two basic areas,
Turkey and Persia (Iran Ė Iraq). As the story goes, the
Turkish birds were self-Black, Red and Yellow. The Persian birds
were barred, Blue Bronze and Sand colored with dark bars (Buff
color). J.L. Smith preferred the selfs and offered the others
for sale. A Mr. Graham in Salt Lake City purchased the barred
In the late 1930ís Daleís Dadís Homers strayed in a
little Blue Bronze Hen. We had never seen such a pigeon before.
Dale asked Ray E. Gilbert what breed of pigeon it was. He said
it was an Oriental Roller. At this time Ray was involved with
the NPA and knew about the importing of some Oriental Rollers.
Dale became so enthralled with this bird that he had to
search out others. Dale and I were accepted into the Utah
Pigeon Club and the search began. Every time we heard that
someone having an Oriental, Dale had to see it and in some way
obtain the bird. You will have to ask him how he managed but at
one time he had almost all the Orientals in Salt Lake City in
As youngsters we flew everything, thatís what it was
all about. The big show was the State Fair. We entered birds
because we received a free pass to the fair. Dale, later on
received National Recognition at the NPA show for his Orientals.
In 1956 we formed the Utah State Roller Club and
began flying our Birmingham and Oriental Rollers in competition.
Dale would have won the contest with his kit of Orientals but a
sudden windstorm blew them out of sight. Only one bird returned
the next day. Dale supplied many fanciers with his birds. He
wanted others to enjoy the Oriental Roller as much as he did.
What happened is another story.
Both strains of Orientals have been mixed for many years.
Today there exists only one Oriental Roller strain. As you know
many fanciers tried to improve the Oriental by crossing in other
breeds. If you find an Oriental Roller with less than 14 tail
feathers or more than 18 it is suspect. The Oriental has
naturally oily feathers. If you find an oil gland it is not an
Oriental Roller - period Ė itís a cross.
The Oriental wing feathers are long and strong to
accommodate its flying style. The tail feathers are long giving
the bird a longer appearance.
The Oriental is combative in the breeding loft. This
happens when they are crowded. I suggest you give them room.
The Oriental is a strong flyer and
a high velocity performer. Falcons abound in the area where they
originated and they were bred to fly evasively. Fanciers had
small individual lofts on the roofs of their homes. Two of my
Asian friends said the birds were flown in small groups. 8 Ė10
birds. I, Years ago, flew my Orientals with Birminghams. The
little Blue Ė Bronze hen flew with the Homers. After about 10
minutes she would hit the blue to do her thing Ė many deep
rolls. When she tired it her about two minutes to reach the loft
The Slavic fanciers used the Oriental to develop the
Donek. The Donek rolls and dives Ė so does the Oriental.
Slavic fanciers bred for the diving qualities; the English for
the rolling. Doneks have 14 plus tail feathers. You often find
more than 12 tail feathers in Rollers. Yes the Oriental does
more than just roll. You may fly large kits of Orientals but the
smaller kits will take your breath away. I have seen a small kit
of Daleís Orientals dive then swoop up to a stall and perform
deep rolls one after another, then return to the loft. You will
have a mammoth task to return todayís Oriental back to its
If you want the truth, Dale is the only one I know who
has genuine performing Oriental Rollers. Iíll enclose the United
Oriental Roller Assn membership list. I suggest you contact
the checked members. They might have leads on others who are
Iíll answer questions if you still have something to
ask. Dale and I are over 70 and writing is a chore.
O.S. and E.
[O.S. and E. = Over
Slow & Easy. Ed.]
Dale Husband, July 1996
started to raise Oriental Rollers in 1936. I was 13 and raising
Rollers and Homers at the time.
In the fall of 1935 a Blue Bronze Hen strayed into the Roller loft. I
didnít know what it was, so I asked a friend
of mine, Ray Gilbert, if he knew. He said it was an Oriental Roller. I
liked itís looks very much and started searching the
neighborhood for some more. Paul [Bradford] and I went up and down the
alleys looking for the birds. When we saw one
I would deal until the owner traded or sold the bird to me.
family started from a collection of these birds. In 1938 the
entire loft of Orientals from Paul Buttle, an
older man who was getting out of birds [came to me]. He had Silvers, Tuffyís, Bronzes and Blacks. These
imports that J. LeRoy Smith had shipped. In the early 1930ís, Smith
kept the solid colors and sent the barred birds
out to a Mr. Graham. Mr. Buttle got them from him. They were from
Kurdistan, as I remember being told at the time.
As I recall the first Orientals were imported in 1927 to the Brooklyn
Zoo. From there they spread all over the country.
To stock a bird I look for stance, size, color, number of tail
feathers and body formations as well as performance,
although I have let the performance slip the last few years.
The Buff color was in the original birds I found or got from others. My
first pair was a Buff Cock and a Blue Bronze Hen
(Tuffy). The sheet you sent describes the performance but I prefer
the backward roll to the rest.
Breed your birds to what you like and donít get too many, or over
show type are larger and have looser feathers they stand too
upright for me, their tails are held too high.
I do like the head to have a long oval appearance, rather than round.
Colors are a personal preference. They donít make
the birds. The number of tail feathers is a matter of personal
like. As for myself, anything over 12 is O.K. The club [UORA]
says 14-20 feathers in the tail for show.
I have flown for over 60 years and have found 8 Ė 16 [birds] is the
best. More than that and they donít kit well
and go all over the sky.
Some people say yes to any type of performance; that it
should be counted. They are not Birminghams or
Pensoms. But do roll the same, I like the roll.
The birds have been mixed up through breeding one color
with another and I believe this has led to color
Breeding for show and not for flying, plus the additional
difficulty in training them to fly in a kit, led to their
loss in popularity.
Train your birds with a regular time schedule and start them young.
Sometimes I fly the young with Homers
to get them started. Then make them go by themselves.
Some of those who have tried to fly Orientals, they got disillusioned
and quit because they fly too many or
donít understand the breed or the bird.
Some old timers, as I remember are: J LeRoy Smith, Bob Evans, Dick Orr
and some in California.
My Tuffy birds are the Blue Bronze Birds from my original hen. They were
named Tuffy by me because they were and
are too mean.
You have about all the colors that I have experienced which makes them
more enjoyable. Thatís about all I can
I hope this helps you.