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"Dedicated to the preservation of the Oriental Roller as a Flying - Performing Pigeon."

Dale & Paul

by Andy Estrada

Iíve 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 NPA members.  

Mr. 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.  

By 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 progress.  

That 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.  

Their 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 Orr,  another key player in roller history;  Ray Gilbert , Salt Lake City, active as a member and President of the NPA during the 1930ís and later.


From Paul 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 ones.

                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 his loft.

                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 roof.

                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 natural state.

                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 flying.

                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.]



From Dale Husband, July 1996


            I 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.

            My 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 birds were

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 crowd.

            The 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

remember, Andy. I hope this helps you. 


ďTuffyĒ Blue/Bronze Hen, 1936 Hatch

Modern Day "Tuffy"


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