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From rollers to fanciers.. pigeon keeping in Kuwait a popular pastime
December 14, 2013, 5:58 pm

Some practice it for pleasure while others look to the huge material gains it offers but one thing is certain and that is that the pastime of keeping domesticated pigeons in Kuwait is a prominent one.

Although it has been practiced around the world for thousands of years, history books find it hard to determine the exact origin of the pastime. Many great civilizations like the Abbasids and the Greeks were known to have relied upon the homing pigeon to deliver letters and messages over long distances.

They relied on the bird's keen sense of memory of its original habitat and its tendency to return home when straying afar.
Today, keeping the domesticated pigeon has taken other forms, with some people collecting different species of the bird for its bodily features, in what is termed as 'fancying'. Others collect the bird for its aerial acrobatics, particularly its ability to flip and tumble while flying, in what is known as the 'roller pigeon'.

Fahad Al-Basman, 35, has been an avid pigeon fancying dealer for 17 years now. The father of four, who describes himself as being of a middle-class income, said his initial plans were to use the pastime as a business, but this soon transformed into a passion.
Aside from breeding, buying and selling the most colourful and outrageous looking birds, he owns a plot of land which he has dedicated to dealers from Kuwait and abroad, who have come to the country to buy or sell their pigeons.

"I spend around KD 15,000 a year on feed, maintenance and employees. I have had visitors come from as far as Iran, Hungary and the United States. The visitors are offered cages to house their pigeons and accommodation for a charge that is extremely modest.
"I lose more money than I make from this, but it is the convergence with people I aim for not the material gain," he said of the venue which has an instagram page under the name 'q8basman' which displays the breeds on offer.

Despite being one of the leading pioneers of the pastime in Kuwait (once heading an unofficial local society) pigeon breeders do not have an official grounds where they can purchase and sell their produce, he says. On his dealings, Al-Basman once sold a species of the bird for KD 500 (around USD 1,770) and said that the most expensive sale he had ever witnessed was worth double that.
He suggested that the northern Gulf state was more expensive than its Arab peers due to the huge variety of breeds in comparison to surrounding countries.

"Many Arab Gulf pigeon fanciers come to Kuwait to buy pigeons, as it has the best breeders in the region," he said.
"Some people in the country go as far as Poland, the Netherlands, Russia and the United States to purchase their pigeons," adds Al-Basman.

Roller pigeons breeder Bader Al-Dulaimi, 36, fell in love with the pastime he inherited from his father and older brother.
He believes that this specific form of keeping has existed in Kuwait for over 100 years, as he knows of colleagues that have great-grandfathers whom practiced the pastime.

This specific type of pigeon is sold for an amount far greater than its relative, the fancier. Al-Dulaimi once sold a pigeon for as much as KD 10,000 (USD 34,430), he says, but has also spent the same on buying another.
Al-Dulaimi currently owns just over 100 roller pigeons, which he interbreeds in order to produce the most acrobatic of birds. He also buys and sells adults and hatchlings.

"The roller pigeon is known for its ability to fly straight ahead and then back again in a corresponding line. It can also do somersaults in the air in a way that is unique," he explains.

On its characteristics, he says that the roller pigeon is "not large and is not small", and that its price is quoted according to its abilities in the air or its lineage. "We breed our pigeons at home when it is hot - between April and October - and take them to our spring retreats when the weather is cooler - during the rest of the months," he says.

"When the weather is cool, that is when sales happen and competitions occur in Kuwait," he adds.
Prizes for roller pigeon competitions range anywhere from KD 5,000 to KD 30, 000 (USD 17,700-106,200), and are usually organised by generous local sponsors.

The prize money goes to the pigeon with the most abilities, and the competition is conducted on a knock-out basis with pigeons entered two-by-two, explains the breeder. As for his passion, Al-Dulaimi says that it introduces him to new people, especially those he has sold a competitive pigeon to - and this results in a sense of pride. It also teaches him patience as well as being a great way to utilize time, he adds

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