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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Bird known as 'the Messi of pigeons' sells for record €1.25m

Armando had been expected to break the previous record of €376,000, but not by such a margin.

be14-3004610_main Armando Source: PIPA

A RACING PIGEON has been sold for a record price of more than €1.25 million.

The bird, Belgian’s best long-distance racer of all time, is called Armando and has been described as the Lionel Messi of the pigeon-racing world.

He was sold for €1,252,000 to a Chinese buyer via an online auction about one hour after he was put on the market.

Armando had been expected to break the previous record of €376,000, paid for a pigeon called Nadine in November 2018, but not by such a wide margin.

A spokesperson for auction house Pigeon Paradise (Pipa) said it was “clear that Armando would be the most expensive pigeon ever sold in an online auction, however no one expected that the magical cap of a million euros would be pulverised”.

Pipa did not say who had bought the pigeon, but according to the Belgian news agency Belga it was a Chinese buyer who will likely use Armando to breed other champions.

Describing Armando, Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, founder and chief executive of Pipa, said: ”In football terms you have Messi and Ronaldo – it’s that level.” 

Armando was just one of more than 100 birds put up for auction by respected Belgian breeder Joel Verschoot.

The bird has retired from racing, but buyers were interested in his breeding potential. Some of his offspring were sold for five-figure sums in the same auction. 

Verschoot’s stable of pigeons is based in Ingelmunster in west Belgium, and the online auction has been open for several weeks. As of Sunday, the family had sold 178 pigeons for around €2 million.

Children and grandchildren

Homing pigeons are raced by releasing them, sometimes hundreds of kilometres from home, with the first one back home winning the race.

Racing them is a tradition in countries such as Belgium, Britain, France and the Netherlands, although it has been going into decline in recent years. However, interest in Asia is increasing.

Eugene Fitzgerald, President of The Irish Homing Union, told RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland China and Taiwan are the “two big up and coming” countries in terms of pigeon racing.

Speaking about its popularity, Fitzgerald said: “Very few sports you can do in your own back garden, racing pigeons is one of them.”

Fitzgerald said Armando was sold for such a high price as his children and grandchildren will also be “worth a lot of money”, noting: “After a while the fella who bought him could have 40 or 50 direct children and maybe 100 or 200 grandchildren.”

Contains reporting from © AFP 2019  

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Órla Ryan

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