A champion racing pigeon dubbed the “Lewis Hamilton of pigeons” has fetched an astonishing $2 million at auction.
The price for the champion bird, named Armando, eclipsed the previous record for a racing pigeon of $600,000.
He was sold by Belgian pigeon auction house Pipa, which described Armando as the “best Belgian long-distance pigeon of all time”.
“It was unreal, the feeling – it was something out of this world,” Pipa chief executive Nikolaas Gyselbrecht told the BBC of the moment someone offered more than €1 million ($A1.6 million).
“In our wildest dreams, we had never hoped for a price like that. We hoped for around €400,000 to €500,000, and we only dreamed of €600,000.”
Armando, who turns five this year, is now set for a cushy life in retirement and breeding.
Mr Gyselbrecht told the BBC that two buyers from China got into a bidding war for the champion bird in the fortnight-long auction that ended on Monday. Offers shot up €532,000 to €1.25 million in just over an hour.
To put it all in perspective, he says, the usual price for a racing pigeon is around €2500 ($A4000).
But Armando is no ordinary pigeon. In the last three races of his career, he won the 2018 Ace Pigeon championship, the 2019 Pigeon Olympiad and the Angoulême.
Breeder Joel Verschoot, of West Flanders, told The South China Morning Post that Armando was born to be a champion but he had never dreamed of such a huge sum being paid for him.
“The two Chinese had told me in advance that they absolutely wanted Armando,” he said. “But I didn’t see this coming. This is a crowning glory of all those years in the pigeon sport. The icing on the cake.”
Mr Verschoot also bred the previous auction price record-holder – a bird called Nadine that sold to a Chinese property tycoon in 2017.
Joël Verschoot auction started on www.pipa.be – One of the headliners in the auction is Armando
Posted by PIPA on Monday, March 4, 2019
Fred Vancaillie, president of the local pigeon fancying association in Perwez, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF that Armando was “the Lewis Hamilton of pigeons” – adding the bird was one of the best in the sport’s history.
Mr Gyselbrecht said racing pigeons can carry on having chicks until they’re about 10, and live up to 20 years. So Armando has plenty of time to enjoy his new life.