Armando, the 'Lewis Hamilton of pigeons' sells for record €1.25m

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Armando the pigeonImage source, Pipa
Image caption,
Armando, pictured, is now enjoying his retirement

A champion pigeon has been sold for a record €1.25m ($1.42m; £1.07m).

Auction house Pipa called Armando the "best Belgian long-distance pigeon of all time". He's also been dubbed the "Lewis Hamilton of pigeons".

Before this sale, the record was €376,000 (£321,800). However, Pipa says this was beaten within a day of Armando being put up for bids.

The champ, who turns five this year, is now enjoying his retirement and has already fathered a number of chicks.

"It was unreal, the feeling - it was something out of this world," Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the CEO of Pipa - short for "Pigeon Paradise" - told the BBC of the moment someone put down a bid of more than €1m.

"In our wildest dreams, we had never hoped for a price like that. We hoped for around €400,000 to €500,000, and we only dreamed of €600,000."

Image source, Pipa
Image caption,
He's going to turn five this year

Mr Gyselbrecht said that two buyers from China ended up in a bidding war, escalating from €532,000 up to €1.25m in just over an hour.

To put it all in perspective, he says, the usual price for a racing pigeon is around €2,500.

But Armando is no usual pigeon. The last three races of his career were the 2018 Ace Pigeon championship, the 2019 Pigeon Olympiad and the Angoulême - and he won them all.

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He has no shortage of admirers, either. Fred Vancaillie, president of the local pigeon fancying association in Perwez, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF that he was "the Lewis Hamilton of pigeons", adding that he was one of the best in the history of the sport.

Although Armando's racing days are behind him, Mr Gyselbrecht says that racing pigeons can carry on having chicks until they're about 10, and live up to 20.

While Armando will now settle in for a quiet life, it's likely his new owners will breed him and race his progeny.