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Origin Of The Birmingham Roller


Published by Pigeons of England, March 20, 1930. Written by Arthur C. Karp

As the breeding season is again with us, I wish to bring to the minds of roller fanciers the fact that the majority of the so-called “rollers” of today are not genuine rollers as represented, but are none other than the West of England High-flying Tumbler. In the days of the early English fanciers the name “roller” was unheard of, but was then called the tumbler, of which there were two types: the high-flying tumbler, that performed long and often, and the strong-flying tumbler that seldom tipped over. 

Fanciers in and around Birmingham, England, organized a club which specialized only in the long-performing tumblers. Fanciers of the Birmingham club would trade or sell off their strong flyers to the West club fanciers, and they again would do likewise. Years later the name of the Birmingham club changed from tumbler to the Birmingham Roller Club, and so the name “tumbler” gave way to “Birmingham Roller.” 

During this time the members of the West club had perfected the flying ability of the tumbler to such an extent that they seldom tipped over and would fly from eight to twelve hours, and at times even longer. A large pool, consisting of cash prizes and ribbons, was offered to the fancier whose birds would fly the longest. 

Last summer, a few local fanciers visited me, and they talked of forming a roller club. Right then and there I asked what the object of this club was, and their answer was that the club would charge a certain amount each month that would go for the upkeep of the club, and should any money be left, this would go towards a pool that would consist of cash prizes and ribbons and would be given to the fancier who could show the longest fly. 

These “flys” would take place on Saturday afternoons or on Sunday mornings, providing the weather permitted, and the winners of the weekly flys would hold a special fly the last Sunday of each month and an extra charge of ten cents per bird would be charged and be awarded to the three fanciers whose birds flew the longest.

Their plan did not favour, so I asked what prize they had to offer for the best exhibitions of combined flying and rolling, disregarding the time limit, and to my surprise their answer was “Oh! We’ve not given this matter a thought, but we will later, providing the other system works satisfactorily.” 

The fault with most of the present-day fanciers is that they are forever striving to produce a combination roller that will possess both long-flying ability like those flown by the old West club fanciers and of long-rolling ability, such as the old performing tumbler and the present-day genuine Birmingham Roller. They are like the horseman forever trying to breed a pair of mules. So will the many fanciers who are forever striving to breed this style of roller. 

I wonder how many present-day fanciers fully understand the characteristics of the genuine roller. I am quite sure the majority do not, as they are unaware of the fact that the so-called West of England high-flying tumbler and the Birmingham Roller stand now as two individual breeds, due to the breeding tendencies of the early English fanciers. 

I have asked a number of these so-called fanciers why they don’t breed more roll into their birds, and their answer was, “Oh, a kit of long rollers don’t fly long enough to suit me and again you lose too many by rolling down.” I will admit a kit of genuine rollers will not hold as long as a kit of strong flyers, as their long and steady performing is bound to tire them out, but on the other hand I will assure the fancier who breeds the strong flyer that he loses far more birds than does the genuine roller fancier. 

How often have you heard your neighbour fancier complain of losing ten or twenty birds in a night fly, or that his birds were up several hours when a sudden storm came up and a dozen or more were gone, never to be seen again? Have you ever heard a genuine roller fancier complain about losing ten or twenty birds by rolling down in a single exhibition? “No, not on your life,” and you never will.

What is more beautiful than a kit of genuine rollers leading to the clouds, and while on their way you have the pleasure of seeing the beautiful performance of these little acrobats. How exciting it is to see a bird cutting through the air like a flash of lightning, and before you count two this little fellow is up again in the blue. 

—from Pigeons of England, March 20, 1930. 




Arthur C. Karp