Pigeon prices fly high on China demand
To most city dwellers, pigeons are vermin. Gourmands might contend that they can make a nice lunch. But pay more than 100,000 euros ($113,400) for a pigeon?
It has become increasingly common, driven largely by interest in pigeon racing among China’s newly rich, Bloomberg Markets reports in its March issue. In May 2013, Chinese businessman Gao Fuxin set a record, paying 310,000 euros in an online auction for a pigeon named Bolt, after Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
The previous record was 250,400 euros paid by a Chinese shipping tycoon in 2012.
Birds from Belgium and theNetherlands are prized for their countries’ racing traditions, and the company has conducted nine auctions since 2009, with total proceeds exceeding 1 million euros.
In a typical pigeon race, hundreds of birds from different breeders’ lofts are outfitted with time-keeping bands, trucked to a starting point hundreds of kilometers away and released simultaneously.
The winning bird is not the one that gets back to its home loft first but rather the one that travels at the fastest average speed.
In Belgium, a scandal erupted in 2013 when six pigeons tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs, including cocaine and painkillers.
Purses can exceed 1 million euros, and many races in China feature an active illegal betting scene. More than 2.5 million euros can ride on a race’s outcome.
Owners anticipate that at least 10 percent of their entrants will not make it back in each race. Hawks are a common problem. So are thieves. In China, pigeon pirates wait along the birds’ expected routes with bait and nets. If captured, the birds are resold or ransomed.
Expensive birds such as Bolt are simply too valuable to race. They are put out to stud after being auctioned.