In almost any city, wild pigeons are treated as a nuisance and in most people’s eyes, are worth a dime for a dozen. Despite all the good things pigeons have given humanity such as aerial photography, they are shooed away from downtown sidewalks into dark alleys and anti-pigeon spikes are put anywhere they land. However, this wasn’t the case for Armando who was worth $1.4 million in someone’s eyes.
It started when the Belgian breeder Joël Verschoot put Armando up for sale on PIPA which is an auction house that specializes in pigeons. Several bidders scurried to claim the emerald-green feathered bird and when the bidding closed on March 19, 2019, Armando was sold in an online auction for a record-smashing €1.2 million (more than $1.4 million) to unknown Chinese buyers. Also, Armando had seven offspring put up for sale which ended up in Belgium, China, Germany, The Netherlands, and Turkey.
Many people may wonder why anyone would pay such a large amount of money for this pigeon and the reason is because of pigeon racing. Pigeon racing is a culture and sport that has boomed in popularity especially in China. On this country’s mainland, gambling has been banned, but pigeon racing gets a pass and in Beijing alone, there are more than 100,000 pigeon breeders.
Armando is known as the “best Belgian long-distance pigeon of all time.” Many people think of Armando as ‘the Messi of pigeons’ which explains why this pigeon demand such an expensive cost. Previously, the highest cost for a pigeon was around $427,800 and the average price was about $2,800. Because Armando’s is 5 years old, he probably won’t be participating in races. However, his bloodline will be passed to the next generation of long-haul flyers.
Pigeon racing for money lasted from 1368 to 1644 in the Ming Dynasty. When the sport became popular, European pigeons were sent to China. In 1644, the subsequent Qing era banned pigeon racing because rulers feared that organized groups (which included pigeon racers) might join together to overturn the government.
It wasn’t until the 1930s where pigeon racing was revived in the British concession of Shanghai. Soon, groups of racers and breeders were made in nearly every city in China and pigeon racing became a rich man’s hobby. Even though modern pigeon racing started in Europe, most of the money from this hobby has come from China.
Though pigeon racing may seem boring to some, it is an unusual, fascinating, and interesting activity to others. This sport’s population could possibly rise even more to provide entertainment to even more people.