The Roller Canary like all canaries is descended from a small green finch native to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic. Conquering Spanish soldiers and sailors brought them back to Spain to honour their lady loves as early as 1496. These 'little sugarbirds' as they were known because of the beauty of their song soon became so fashionable that it was a matter of etiquette among the aristocracy to have a sailor present one in a golden cage to his lady.

Although selective breeding over the centuries has now produced type canaries of many shapes and colours, originally they were bred for song. By the 17th Century a canary trade on a very big scale took root in the Tyrol. The Tyrolean bird dealers brought the canary to all countries in Europe journeying as far as Russia, Turkey, Egypt and England. Eventually they came to the Hartz Mountains in Germany and it was here that the German Roller (Hartzer Edelroller) had its origins in commercial enterprise. The big bird dealers sent 'taggers' or buyers to all the breeders in the small Hartz mountain towns. Birds which had a pure voice and soft tones fetched a higher price than those that produced a loud noise with beak open.
Consequently the ingenious Hartz mountain breeders set out to produce quality songsters in order to realise bigger profits. It was noted that some birds had an exceptionally good ear and faculty for mimicry. The nightingale, woodlark and other noted songsters were made use of as tutors. Later musical instruments such as a flute and ultimately an ingenious device called a bird organ were used.

By careful breeding, selection and tutoring a strain of canary was produced that could sing thirteen different song passages known as Rolls and Tours.

The modern day Roller Canary is a descendant of these birds. The male sings with his beak closed all song coming from the throat and is judged at song contests on the quality of his Rolls and Tours and the artistic rendering of his song.