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Belgian pigeon sells for €1.6m at high-stakes bird auction

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An employee of Pipa, a Belgian auction house for racing pigeons, shows a two-year old female pigeon named New Kim after an auction in Knesselare, Belgium, Sunday, Nov. 15, 202
An employee of Pipa, a Belgian auction house for racing pigeons, shows a two-year old female pigeon named New Kim after an auction in Knesselare, Belgium, Sunday, Nov. 15, 202   -   Copyright  Francisco Seco/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.All rights reserved
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New Kim is worth her weight in gold and then some - actually much, much more.

A wealthy Chinese pigeon racing fan put down a record price of 1.6 million euros ($1.9 million) for the Belgian-bred bird on Sunday.

During a frantic last half hour at the end of a two-week auction at the Pipa pigeon centre, two Chinese bidders operating under the pseudonyms Super Duper and Hitman drove up the price as they bid against each other.

The final bid left the previous record that Belgian-bred Armando fetched last year well behind, by 350,000 euros ($406,000).

Super Duper

Super Duper got the hen, and behind the pseudonym is said to be the same wealthy Chinese industrialist who already had Armando, allowing for breeding with the two expensive birds.

Sunday's bid was proof again that the once-quaint sport, which seemed destined to decline only a few years back, now has a new, elitist foreign lease on life.

Top breeders relying on generations of family experience can now sell their birds for prices unheard of merely a decade ago, and often China is their destination.

On this occasion, successful breeder Gaston Van de Wouwer retired at 76 and his son had too busy a professional life to continue the famed pigeon coop.

All 445 birds were put up for auction and the overall sale was already pushing past 6 million euros ($7 million).

A second part of the auction is ending on Monday, but didn't include any bird that could match New Kim.

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 organise races close together.

It's not a short-term endeavour, however, since becoming expert at genetic breeding with the constant mixing and mating of birds takes years, if not decades.

Birds can live up to 15 years.