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 The Osman Strain of Racing Pigeons
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The Osman surname has been associated with the sport of racing pigeons since the birth of the sport in Britain, not only with its practical aspects including racing, administration, and so on but from this family came the oldest racing pigeon publication in the world, still going strong today, The Racing Pigeon. The Osmans have other publications to their credit, including the monthly magazine the Racing Pigeon Pictorial International and books on the sport.

Then, of course, there is the association with the annual Old Comrades Show. However, in this article I'd like to recall the origins and some feats of this carefully bred strain.Initially, I would like to recall an incident when I attended a pigeon auction in the Protestant Hall at Glenavy, Co. Antrim, shortly after my return to the sport about two and a half years ago. Whilst there I got into a conversation with a number of fanciers from Co. Down who were discussing British pigeon families. Upon introducing ourselves, one of the participants referred to my name- rather more in ignorance than prejudice- with the usual question, 'What is it in English?'. He changed the subject slightly when I asked him, 'Would you ask the Russian author Solzhenitsyn to translate his name for you if he was here?'

With no response to my question he hurriedly translated 'Liam' as William, referring to its diminutive as 'Billy' and asked us if we had ever heard of Old Billy. Some had, some hadn't, but the translator proceeded to outline the life of one of the most famous pigeons ever to be born in Europe. The incident which I recall confirmed that amongst the racing pigeon fraternity there is a wealth of knowledge- some fact, some fiction, some a combination of both- which ensures the continual presence in one's memory of a famous pigeon or fancier.

The Osmans from which Old Billy came were a strain whose members were of medium size and whose colours were mainly red chequer and mealy. They descended initially from birds obtained from fanciers such as Oliver, Cottell, Stanhope, Harris and J.W. Barker. They were carefully bred to the line via the sire but crosses were introduced via well- tried hens of impeccable long distance bloodlines. Osmans would cross well with other strains, especially the Logans and the Gits. In fact, in the creation of his strain the founder carefully bought for many years the best representatives of Gits, Rey and Vassart from Belgium, plus, as a good friend of Logan, he obtained fine specimens from the latter's family. One of those was a dam of Revived Hope, a famous Osman pigeon.

Now Old Billy (who was less well known as '59') was a mealy cock whose genes permeated, I believe, every bird of the Osman family for generations. His sire was bred in 1885 and was a blue chequer cock known as 'No. 35', bred by James Harris and derived from the Belgian bloodlines of a Mr. Pescher, whereas his dam was a J.W. Barker mealy hen born in 1886. Old Billy in due course fathered Mumpy, Mortification, and Blue Bell among others, the latter three being winners from Arbroath, Thurso, and Lerwick respectively.

It was then in due course that Old Billy's blood- via his grandsons Wanstead Wonder and Forlorn Hope- progressed the family. These grandsons being landmark pigeons in the history of British strains, Forlorn Hope as a breeder being responsible for many winners world-wide and as a racer winning 2nd Perth, 1st Thurso, 23rd Thurso, 8th Lerwick, etc,. He was approximately 18 years old when he died and the passing of this dark red chequer cock was a cause of much sadness in the Osmans' circle. Wanstead Wonder also won many races including 1st Thurso, and a pigeon from Forlorn Hope, named Revived Hope won 1st Federation from Lerwick in 1913 and again in 1914. It was a very hard race and Revived Hope reflected the strain's example in hard, bad- weather races. Yes, the Osman strain, for its founders and hundreds of fanciers worldwide, got going when the going got tough, so to speak.

In America, as in Britain and indeed in Ireland, there are still fanciers who claim to have Osman bloodlines today and who race well, especially showing a consistency when the odds are terribly opposed to them, weather- wise. In the meantime, I hope my article, however modest, recalls if not for the younger, at least for the older generation,the memory of a pivotal strain moulded by a master in the history of the sport in the United Kingdom.

Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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