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This Pigeon Was Sold for Nearly $1.5 Million at an Auction — Here's Why

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Mar. 24 2019, Updated 7:28 p.m. ET

People are comparing this pigeon to international soccer phenom Lionel Messi, because he’s so darn valuable. And he’s an athlete.

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This pigeon, who goes by the name of Armando (pretentious, much?) is a champion racing bird. Yes, people race pigeons apparently, and Armando’s the best at it. Due to his natural talent, he's highly sought after for breeding purposes. And, bidders were forced to pay a pretty penny for the bird himself so they can breed him with other racing pigeon stock. 

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This whole thing reminds me of my favorite films of all time, The Pope of Greenwich Village. A lot of stuff goes on in the movie, but the plot centers on Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke hatching a scheme that involves a racehorse. 

Without getting too graphic, Roberts and Rourke’s plan involves securing a prized horse’s seed so they can sell it to horse breeders and produce themselves a champion-level horse at a fraction of the cost. Also, Eric Roberts gets his thumb cut off in the film and it’s very sad but also amazing. 

As for Armando, he's  probably kept under a tight lock and key so I don’t imagine anyone would be able to pull off a similar scheme with Belgium’s greatest long-distance racing champion. 

Armando has an impressive history of winning pigeon races and is so revered in the pigeon-racing community that he commanded a whopping $1.4 million dollar price tag. A Chinese buyer purchased the bird and is most definitely cooking up ways  to take the competitive pigeon racing world by storm. 

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The buyer’s identity remains anonymous, but here’s hoping for his sake Armando isn’t sterile, although I’d imagine there were tests to verify that sort of thing before he went on sale. Could you imagine if he was though? That would be amazing. 

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Armando might rule the roost, or whatever pigeons live in, but there are tons of other distinguished, feathered friends who were sold for a pretty penny at the Belgian auction, and all of them by the same man: Joel Verschoot. 

The dude loves breeding pigeons and he’s apparently darn good at it, too. He’s got a stable of them in Ingelmuster, Belgium. After selling some 178 pigeons, he and his family pulled in about 2 million euros. Not bad for trafficking a bunch of birds that poop on every monument they lay eyes on. 

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million dollar pigeon

You might be wondering what a homing pigeon race looks like, and it’s about as boring as it sounds. The birds are given a home base, and then they’re released some 100 miles away from their destination. The first bird back to base wins the race. 

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The sport was popularized in Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, and Northern France, but as of late fewer people have been getting into it. I kind of place it in the same league of competitive sports as ice curling or dressage. 

million dollar pigeon
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As it turns out, many Asian buyers and competitors have become interested in the game and are purchasing thoroughbred birds of their own. As such,  the games are experiencing a bit of a resurgence. 

million dollar pigeon

I wonder what happens if Armando is released somewhere in Asia, and somehow manages to make it back home to Belgium. Will the Verschoots have to give him back? 

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