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Racing pigeon Armando
Image: Joel Verschoot

Belgian pigeon fetches record €1.25 million

March 18, 2019

Two Chinese fanciers battled it out in an online auction to buy the star racer, smashing the previous record of €376,000 ($425,000). New interest from Asian markets in recent years has given the flagging practice a lift.


Belgium's best long-distance racing pigeon, Armando, was the subject of a bidding war between two anonymous Chinese buyers, putting enthusiasts into a spin on Sunday.

Armando was expected to break the previous record of €376,000 ($425,000), paid for a pigeon called Nadine by another Chinese buyer, but not by so much.

"No one expected that the magical cap of a million euros would be pulverized," the Belgian enthusiast site Pigeon Paradise said, after the final bid of €1,252,000 was placed in the closing hour.

The site said the average price of €13,489 for the 178 pigeons sold in the auction was the second-most expensive stable it had seen sold.

Respected west Belgian breeder Joel Verschoot picked up a total of around €2 million through the auction, with the top bird expected to be used for breeding more stars.

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Racing revived

Homing pigeons are thought to have been used as far back as 1200 BC to carry messages but their use in racing is said to date back to at least the 1800s. The pigeons are raised in a loft and then taken hundreds of kilometers away and released. The first pigeon that makes it back to the loft wins.

Racing pigeons can average speeds of above 80km/h (more than 50mph) over 1,000 kilometer distances and can go much faster over shorter distances.

The flagging sport has received a boost in recent years as wealthy Chinese buyers have become interested.

However, animal welfare activists have raised concerns about the high number of animals that don't return to the coop.

Pigeons in west Germany
Racing pigeons can be told apart from their city cousins by the rings on their feetImage: picture-alliance/dpa/C.Seidel

Animal rights group PETA launched an investigation in 2013 that found millions of pigeons dead in the ocean in Taiwan after they had been forced to fly too far.

Enthusiasts, known as fanciers, have defended the practice, saying that when pigeons don't return it is often due to natural predators, disorientation due to man-made radio signals and theft.

UNESCO had been considering giving the practice the status of intangible cultural heritage in Germany but rejected the application after activists complained.

ta/msh (AFP)

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