'Lewis Hamilton of racing pigeons' sells for more than £1 million

Bonnie Christian

The “Lewis Hamilton of racing pigeons” has been sold for more than £1 million.

Joel Verschoot's bird Armando was sold in Belgium by auction house Pipa after a two-week online bidding war.

The price was three times the previous record of £322,000, which was set in November.

Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the founder and chief executive of Pipa said: “This pigeon has a race record that has never been matched by any other pigeon.

"In football terms you have Messi and Ronaldo - it's that level."

Armando is now enjoying his retirement. (PA)

The figure made Armando the most valuable bird ever sold in an auction, also beating the record offline price of £428,000 paid for a pigeon named Mr Fantastic, Mr Gyselbrecht said.

Armando won the last three races of his career: the 2018 Ace Pigeon championship, the 2019 Pigeon Olympiad and the Angoulême.

The star pigeon is retired from racing at five years old, but holds such high value because of his breeding potential.

A number of his offspring were sold for five-figure sums in the same auction.

He attracted bids from countries around the world, including the United States, South Africa and Belgium.

Racing pigeons are displayed for sale at the Pigeon Olympiad 2017 in Brussels, they usually sell for an average of £2,140. (REUTERS)

But the price, already a record, was pushed up by about £600,000 by two Chinese fanciers in the final hour of the two-week auction.

"There was nobody in the pigeon world who thought that would happen," said Mr Gyselbrecht.

"We were hoping for four or five hundred thousand, and maybe a little bit dreaming of six."

A number of his offspring were sold for five-figure sums in the same auction.

The usual price for a racing pigeon is around £2,140.

The bird has been described as the "Lewis Hamilton of pigeons" by Fred Vancaillie, president of the local pigeon fancying association in Perwez, but the name does not impress Mr Gyselbrecht.

"I don't know how important Lewis Hamilton is in Formula One," he said. "Is he the best ever?

"Maybe Schumacher. This pigeon is the best ever."