A racing pigeon was bought at auction last Sunday – and the price tag was nothing to coo at.
New Kim, a Belgian-bred racing pigeon, was sold for $1.9 million to a wealthy Chinese bidder under the pseudonym Super Duper, setting a world record after a two-week auction that ended in a bidding war.
“Everybody is interested in our pigeons," Pascal Bodengien, head of the Belgian pigeon federation, told The Associated Press.
The previously held record was set last year at $1.4 million for a racing bird named Armando. According to The Associated Press, the person who purchased New Kim also owns Armando and intends to breed the pair.
Breeder Gaston Van de Wouwer had put his 445 birds up for auction after choosing to retire at 76. As of Monday, the auction ended well past 6 million euros ($7 million).
Belgians have long stood out as the best breeders, both because of their generations-long experience and the density of a network where many breeders can organize races close together. It's not a short-term endeavor, however, since becoming experts at genetic breeding with the constant mixing and mating of birds takes years, if not decades. Birds can live up to 15 years.
The demanding pursuit reportedly once sent the sport into a tailspin, but recently has found a resurgence.
Pigeon racing has seen a new surge in interest in the Middle East and Asia. For example in China bidders are spending millions on Belgian birds who have been called "Thoroughbreds of the Sky" due to similarities with horse racing including betting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.