(ABC NEWS) — Armando is not your ordinary pigeon.
He’s been called the Lewis Hamilton of pigeon racing. He’s mean, lean and one of pigeon racing’s (yes, that’s a real thing) top stars.
Joel Verschoot, who raised and trained Armando to be a champion racer, recently sold his prized pigeon at a Belgium auction. A Chinese real-estate mogul paid $1.4 million for the little guy, a historic amount for a pigeon sale.
Pigeon racing has gained in popularity in Asia recent years, becoming a big-money glamour sport.
“Nobody in the pigeon world thought this would happen,” Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the CEO of Pigeon Paradise (Pipa), which organized the online auction, told ABC News. “We were hoping for $400,000 or $500,000.”
To put things in perspective, an average racing pigeon usually goes for around $2,800.
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But Armando is in no way average. Even though he is 5 years old and reaching the end of his racing career, his superb sense of direction and unbelievable wing strength make this champion pigeon a million dollar breeder.
“In 2017 and 2018 Armando was the best racing pigeon in Belgium,” said Verschoot, adding, “In 2018 he was the best in Europe and an Olympic champion.”
Verschoot’s been with Armando ever since that egg cracked five years ago. The longtime pigeon breeder used Armando to develop unique training techniques and was very hands-on with the future pigeon celebrity. All together Verschoot owns 300 pigeons, spending 12 hours a day with them. And yes, he knows each of them by name.
Armando, however, is the “crowning glory of all those years in the pigeon sport. The icing on the cake,” Verschoot said.