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© Provided by Business Insider Carlo Gyselbrecht, co-owner of Pipa, a Belgian auction house for racing pigeons, shows a 2-year old female pigeon named New Kim after an auction in Knesselare, Belgium, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. AP Photo/Francisco Seco

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  • Belgian racing pigeon New Kim sold for a record-breaking $1.9 million at auction, the AP reports.
  • New Kim was bought by an anonymous Chinese buyer who also bought Armando, the previous record-setter, the auction house confirmed to Business Insider.
  • Belgian specialization in pigeon breeding has dovetailed with an expensive hobby for the Chinese ultrawealthy, with millions at stake for the fastest flight.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The pigeon-racing industry has soared to new heights with a record-breaking sale.

The racing pigeon 'New Kim' sold for $1.9 million on Sunday after a two-week auction at Belgium's Pipa pigeon center, Niels Cuelenaere, a project manager at Pipa, told Business Insider. The Associated Press reports that he deal took flight from New Kim's original starting price of 200 euros (around $236).

Kurt Van de Wouwer, part of the breeding family that owned New Kim, told Reuters: 'The only thing I can see is we are in total shock.' Cuelenaere told Business Insider that Van De Wouwer was 'already known in the pigeon sport by many fanciers, especially those in China.'

Indeed, the bidding for New Kim was jacked up by two anonymous Chinese bidders. Per AP, 'Super Duper' and 'Hitman' raised New Kim's price by $325,000 during a just a half hour of bidding.

Super Duper ultimately flew away with the hen, who is expected to be used to breed more chicks for the pigeon-racing scene that has become popular with China's ultrawealthy.

Cuelenaere confirmed the AP's reporting that Super Duper is the same Chinese industrialist who bought the previous pigeon-auction record-holder, Armando, for $1.4 million in 2019. He said Pipa believes this industrialist will breed the two pigeons together, creating something of a racing-pigeon power couple. Kim only raced in 2018, according to Reuters, and is 2 years old.

The entire pigeon colony will be sold for about 9.5 million euros, he said, adding that per pigeon, the auction will average 21,000 euros — nearly $25,000.

'Expectations were absolutely high, but I believe everyone involved was still truly amazed by the amounts paid in this auction,'Cuelenaere said.

The rise of racing among (China's) wealthy

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As Business Insider previously reported, pigeon racing first began as a working-class sport after World War One. During the war, pigeons helped carry urgent messages (and even medication). Postwar, their races became an affordable leisure activity.

But the sport has risen in popularity – and prestige — in China in recent years. Bidders have spent millions on birds (mostly from Belgium, where breeders have come to specialize in pigeons over generations), and the prize pots can number in the millions, a figure that Cuelenaere confirmed. The birds have also become something of a status symbol for those who rule the racing roost.

Sun Yan — deputy general-secretary of the Beijing Changping District Racing Pigeons Association — told CNN's Karoline Kan in April 2019 that China has become the 'hottest' place for pigeon racing. He said that there are about 100,000 pigeon breeders in Beijing alone.

'Beijing's pigeon races are the most professional ones in China,' Sun told CNN. He added that, while Europe is 'the birthplace' for the modern iteration of the sport, 'China has become the hottest place for pigeon racing, with the most money flowing in. With money, nothing is impossible.'

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The Chinese now have around 1 million 'pigeon fanciers,' Cuelenaere said, 'and their numbers keep on growing.' For the sport's appeal in China, he cited its competitiveness and the opportunities it provides for gambling.

Per CNN, wealthy pigeon owners will enter as many birds as they can in a race, making it more likely for them to win a prize. The sport has also had its own cheating scandal; two racers incurred fraud charges after hiding pigeons in milk cartons and taking them on a bullet train to clinch the race.

The sale of New Kim marks an unflappable new moment for pigeon racing.

'The high amounts paid for these pigeons will only further drive up prices in the pigeon racing sport,' Cuelenaere said, likening it to soccer's transfer of market, which values players at as much tens of hundreds of millions.

While New Kim may have set records today, there may be even bigger birds to come.

'A high bar has been set today by this auction, but as long as this trend continues, it suffices to say we do not see an end to records being broken any time soon,' Cuelenaere said. 'The Chinese will keep coming back to Belgium and neighboring countries to find the most valuable pigeons.'

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Pigeons Manager » Welcome!

The Pigeons Manager is an online game where you can sell/buy pigeons, manage your own loft during the breeding season and you can also compete online with opponents of all over the world.
How it works
Pigeons Manager is free. You can manage your own loft through and with your internet browser. There are weekly races and you can manage and check your status whenever you want to. You can follow your birds, train them, sell/buy or only chat and exchange some ideas with other pigeon fanciers.
Pigeons Manager never comes to an end. If you win your league you will be promoted to an upper league. Are you ready for being famous on a national and an international level?
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