Record-Breaking Pigeon Speeds Off to China After $1.4m Sale

Homing pigeon
The sale of pigeon Armando has made his owner a millionaire after two Chinese bidders went head to head.

30-second summary

  • Auction for speedy pigeon sets world record price
  • Two Chinese go head to head in fortnight-long battle to secure the winning bid
  • Owner earns more in two weeks than 40 years

Known as the Lewis Hamilton of racing pigeons, the racing pigeon named Armando set sold for a record-breaking €1.25m ($1.4m; £1.1m) to a Chinese buyer. The amount was reached after a two-week long bidding battle that was won by XDDPO. The pigeon’s breeder and owner, Joël Verschoot, was stunned by the outcome.

Racing pigeon Armando smashes world record

Pigeon fanciers aren’t usually known for their millions, but that could all change after a fraught two-week long head-to-head auction that broke a world record. Armando, a 5-year-old racing pigeon, sold for a whopping $1.4m in an online auction, beating the previous record by more than three times, Nadine, another racing pigeon, had previously sold for $425,000 (£321,000). It was expected that Armando would sell for slightly more than that, but Verschoot told the press that he had never expected an amount this high. At 5 years old, Armando is nearing his retirement age, but he will now take a final flight to China to be put out to stud with an expensive hen in the hope of producing another record-breaking racer.

In the final moments of the fortnight-long auction, it emerged that two Chinese bidders were directly competing with each other. Every time the bidder “XDDPO” increased the offer by $110,000 (£83,000), “Champ Team” bid an extra $2,200 (£1,700). After an hour-long battle, XDDPO emerged triumphant with the sky-high $1.4m bid.

Although pigeon racing is not a popular sport in the US, it has become big business in China. Wealthy Chinese interest has revitalized the sport, and now sees bidders fighting it out to own the best. However, the Chinese pigeon racing scene is increasingly cut-throat. In 2018, two men were sentenced to three years in prison for cheating in a 466-mile race. The fraudsters had gone to great lengths in an attempt to win the race by smuggling birds on a bullet train to the finish line.

“I didn’t see this coming”

Of his record-breaking bird, Verschoot said: “The two Chinese had told me in advance that they absolutely wanted Armando. But I didn’t see this coming.”

As a well-respected breeder from West Flanders, Belgium, he credits his 50 years’ experience to catching the bug from his father. Verschoot’s stable of pigeons is based in Ingelmunster, in the west of Belgium.  The online auction of his pigeons has been open for several weeks and he is believed he has made over $2m (£1.5m) from the sale of 178 birds.

Exceptional strengths

So what made this pigeon so fancy? According to Verschoot, Armando has exceptional strengths that allow him to race in all weather conditions. Is it said that Verschoot pigeons find tricky flying conditions “a piece of cake” and are “killers” when surfing on a headwind from a warm and sunny day. This Belgian bird is considered to be the best long-distance pigeon of all time.

In his final racing year, Armando — described locally as the “Lewis Hamilton” of pigeons — triumphed in the First Olympic Pigeon in Poznan, Poland, but the seeds of his future greatness were there to be seen from his very first race. “It was clear that he would reach the top,” said Verschoot. After 600 kilometers of flying, he took second place at the national level.

Verschoot said, “It will hurt to see him leave. But who knows, maybe we will grow another Armando within a few years.” When asked what he planned to do with his newly-acquired $1.4m, he responded, “nothing special.”